Lawmakers Target Higher Ed Regulations

U.S. House of Representative Education and the Workforce Committee Chair Virginia Foxx (R-NC) introduced legislation on Friday that would repeal the Education Department's state authorization rule, definition of the credit hour, and gainful employment regulations. The bill would also outlaw the Obama administration from moving forward on plans for its college rating and teacher preparation program accountability systems.

The Supporting Academic Freedom Through Regulatory Relief Act (H.R. 970) comes on the heels of a bipartisan Congressional task force's report that ripped federal regulation of colleges, The Chronicle of Higher Education reported. According to the report published on Thursday, too many federal rules are "unnecessarily voluminous and too often ambiguous," with "unreasonable" compliance costs.

U.S. Senators Lamar Alexander (R-TN), Richard Burr (R-NC), Barbara Mikulski (D-MD) and Michael Bennet (D-CO) created the task force in November 2013, asking panel members to identify specific recommendations to consolidate or eliminate, to quantify the time and costs of complying with specific rules, and to provide recommendations for improved rule making.

The group, which comprised 16 current and former college leaders and lobbyists, met four times, consulted with representatives of more than 60 institutions and higher education associations – including AACRAO, and commissioned three policy papers that were financed by the Lumina Foundation. Its conclusion: "We need to be smarter about the regulation of higher education."

The task force's 144-page final report criticizes the sheer volume of federal rules and guidelines, and it says that the U.S. Department of Education produces, on average, more than one new directive or clarification every working day of the year. The report calls for the elimination of dozens of federal rules and requirements and the simplification of dozens more, including regulations governing accreditation, campus crime, consumer information, distance education, and student aid. It also lays out "guiding principles" for developing and executing future rules.

Sen. Alexander, chairman of the Senate education committee, said the report's recommendations would guide his panel's efforts to "weed the garden" in the forthcoming reauthorization of the Higher Education Act and would "allow colleges to spend more of their time and money educating students, instead of filling out mountains of paperwork."

Alexander, who told the Chronicle that his "principal goal in higher education is to deregulate it," said his committee would hold a hearing on the report's findings later this month.


Related Links

The Chronicle of Higher Education

Senate Task Force Report

The Chronicle of Higher Education