Senate Education Panel Talks Deregulation of Higher Ed

On Tuesday, the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee held the first in a series of hearings on the Higher Education Act reauthorization.

The meeting focused a bipartisan Congressional task force's report on federal regulation of higher education. The report, released earlier this month, criticizes the sheer volume of federal rules and calls for the elimination of dozens of regulations and the simplification of dozens more.

Testifying before the committee, the task force chairmen – William E. (Brit) Kirwan, Chancellor of the University System of Maryland, and Nicholas S. Zeppos, Chancellor of Vanderbilt University – told lawmakers that compliance costs are driving up college tuition. They urged the committee to roll back some of the rules and take steps to improve the federal rulemaking process, The Chronicle of Higher Education reported.

"Many regulations are well conceived to address critically important issues and provide appropriate means of accountability," said Kirwan, but "too many regulations are overly complex, confusing, and result in costly compliance efforts."

Senator Patty Murray (D-WA), ranking member the Senate education committee, cautioned her colleagues against too much regulation, though. "Of course it's important to make sure colleges and universities can work efficiently and effectively. And I am open to ways to improve our rule-making process," she said. "At the same time, it would be a mistake to roll back important protections for faculty, students, and families."

Committee Chairman Lamar Alexander (R-TN), who has said that his "principal goal in higher education is to deregulate it," told the chancellors he would use their recommendations to guide the panel’s efforts to reauthorize the Higher Education Act. Sen. Alexander laid out his ambitions plans to rewrite the legislation this year, with more hearings in April, a draft version of the bill by the summer, and a vote on the Senate floor after the August recess, Inside Higher Ed reported. Additionally, he promised to work with Secretary of Education Arne Duncan to make additional changes administratively.


Related Links

U.S. Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee Hearing

The Chronicle of Higher Education

Inside Higher Ed