Senator Alexander Provides Plan for Higher Education Act Reauthorization

Senator Alexander Provides Plan for Higher Education Act Reauthorization

On February 4th, Ron Hamm attended an event hosted by the American Enterprise Institute that featured Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Chairman Lamar Alexander (R-TN) providing comments on the committee’s agenda for reforming the Higher Education Act (HEA).

Senator Alexander presented a potential blueprint and quick timeline for a long-awaited rewrite of the federal law governing higher education.  Since he is retiring at the end of the 116th Congress, he is taking an aggressive approach for what will likely be his last attempt to reauthorize the law. He vowed that 2019 would be the year for rewriting the law. 

Senate HELP Chairman Alexander stated that he wants the committee to pass a bill this spring and he hopes to get it through the Senate this summer. That would give senators time to negotiate with the Democrat-controlled House and get a bill signed by President Trump.  He believes that an updated HEA law would allow millions of additional students across the nation to attend college. He is optimistic that he can accomplish his goal based on past bipartisan cooperation on education and workforce issues in the Senate.  

Senator Alexander has three key priorities for HEA reauthorization.  He wants to:

  • Simplify the federal student aid application
  • Create a new income-based repayment plan for borrowers
  • Build a new accountability system for colleges based on whether borrowers are actually repaying their loans

The final key issue that Senator Alexander has proposed for the HEA rewrite is the controversial gainful employment for all institutions.  He plans to revisit the gainful employment rule (which compares the cost of a college’s program to earnings) and extend it to all public and private colleges and universities. Senator Alexander believes it would encourage colleges to keep tuition and other costs in check.

He also said many other good ideas have been pitched by his colleagues on the HELP committee, including proposals to expand competency-based education programs, to require colleges to use clearer language in letters telling students about the aid they’re receiving and to collect better data on how much students borrow and how much they earn after graduation. He also mentioned proposals to allow incarcerated individuals to access Pell Grants and to open the grants up to shorter programs. 

He has met with Senator Patty Murray (D-WA), the ranking member on the HELP committee, and nine other committee members to discuss developing a single piece of legislation. Senator Murray is pleased that Senator Alexander is making the Higher Education Act a priority this year and said that she looks forward to working with him to pass a reauthorization bill this year. 

Hamm Consulting Group is excited to engage with its clients, higher education stakeholders, and members of Congress on this enormous opportunity to improve higher education to meet the demands of students, families, and the workforce.