Higher Education Act

The Higher Education Act (HEA) is a federal law that governs the administration of federal higher education programs. Its purpose is to strengthen the educational resources of our colleges and universities and to provide financial assistance for students in postsecondary and higher education.

First passed in 1965 to ensure that every individual has access to higher education, regardless of income or zip code, the HEA governs student-aid programs, federal aid to colleges, and oversight of teacher preparation programs. It is generally scheduled for reauthorization by Congress every five years to encourage growth and change.

The HEA has been reauthorized in 1968, 1972, 1976, 1980, 1986, 1992, 1998, and 2008. Current authorization for the programs in the Higher Education Act expired at the end of 2013, but has been extended while Congress prepares changes and amendments.

Latest Actions

Efforts to update the Higher Education Act stalled as the COVID-19 pandemic put Congressional discussions on hold. Prior to the outbreak, lawmakers were reportedly close to reaching a deal after years of failure. However, there is hope that negotiations will eventually resume in the 117th Congress.

HEA in the 116th Congress

  • Senate Action

    U.S. Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee Chairman Lamar Alexander (R-TN) in September 2019 introduced a piecemeal approach to update the Higher Education Act in the 116th Congress (2019-2020). The Student Aid Improvement Act, S. 2557, included eight bipartisan bills to streamline the Federal Application for Student Aid (FAFSA), simplify financial aid award letters, expand Pell Grant eligibility for students in prisons and allow Pell to be used for short-term programs, among other changes. The proposal followed months of stalled efforts to reach a bipartisan deal for a comprehensive HEA reauthorization.


  • House Action

    Democrats on the U.S. House Education and Labor Committee in October 2019 unveiled a sweeping overhaul of the federal higher education law, aiming to cut the cost of college and increase access to college for low-income and minority students. The College Affordability Act included provisions that would:

    • Include the Reverse Transfer Efficiency Act, which AACRAO strongly supports and has advocated for over the past several years
    • Create a national tuition-free community college through a federal-state partnership model where the federal government contributes a per student amount at least 75 percent of the average resident tuition for public community colleges and states contribute 25 percent
    • Increase the maximum Pell Grant award by $500 and permanently index the award to inflation
    • Simplify FAFSA, including an automatic zero EFC for recipients of means-tested benefits
    • Create the Federal Direct Perkins Loan Program to provide an additional source of borrowing for undergraduates and graduates
    • Allow Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) and certain other undocumented students access to federal student aid
    • Repeal the federal "student unit record" ban and require the Education Department to develop a system that uses student-level data to evaluate postsecondary outcomes
    • Change the 90/10 rule ratio (the percentage cap of Title IV aid an institution may receive) to 85/15 and expand it to include all educational programs
    • Require the Education Department to establish a Borrower Defense to Repayment process to discharge the federal loans of students who were defrauded by their colleges
    • Require the Education Department to establish a compliance standard that includes a debt-to-earnings threshold for training programs that are statutorily required to lead to gainful employment
    • Prohibit the Education Department from issuing or enforcing the proposed Title IX rules that the Trump administration published in November 2018, among other things.

    The College Affordability Act shared some key provisions with the Senate's package of bipartisan bills. Both proposals aimed to streamline FAFSA, simplify financial aid award letters, and expand Pell eligibility for incarcerated students and short-term programs—although the House bill excluded for-profit colleges.

    However, the House measure did not gain any traction in the 116th Congress's Republican-controlled Senate.




House Bills Address Concerns in Sweeping Veterans Benefits Law

Oct 20, 2021, 19:53 PM
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Summary : Lawmakers recently introduced two bills to make technical corrections to the Isakson Roe and THRIVE Acts and extend certain COVID-related flexibilities for veterans education benefits.
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House lawmakers recently introduced two bills to make technical corrections to the Isakson Roe and THRIVE Acts and extend certain COVID-related flexibilities for veterans education benefits.  

The Johnny Isakson and David P. Roe, M.D. Veterans Health Care and Benefits Improvement (Isakson Roe) Act and the Training in High-demand Roles to Improve Veteran Employment Act (THRIVE Act), which were enacted earlier this year and effective August 1, provide important protections for student veterans to help ensure that they can use their GI Bill benefits to complete a quality postsecondary education. However, certain provisions included in the legislation could create unintended consequences for veterans and institutions.

The two proposed House bills would address many of those areas of concern. The Student Veteran COVID-19 Protection Act, H.R. 5509, and the Responsible Education Mitigating Options and Technical Extensions (REMOTE) Act, H.R. 5545, would both: 

  • Extend certain COVID-related flexibilities granted to the secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) and set to expire this December until June 2022. Without this extension, veterans could see their benefits reduced or cut off if their campus needs to move instruction online. 
  • Make the VA's incentive compensation provision parallel to the incentive compensation provision in the Higher Education Act (HEA) by adding the exception that permits recruiting of foreign students in foreign countries. 
  • Require the VA and the State Approving Agencies to interpret the VA's incentive compensation provision consistent with the Education Department's interpretation.
  • Allow the VA to waive the second certification requirement for institutions with a flat rate tuition and fee structure. 
  • Allow institutions to satisfy Isakson Roe section 1018's consumer information requirements by using the Education Department's "College Financing Plan" template. 

The Student Veteran COVID-19 Protection Act, introduced by Rep. Mike Bost (R-IL), includes language to expand the VA's "rounding out" policy, which helps veterans receive full time benefits during the last term of their education program. The measure would also require the proposed changes be paid for by offsetting funds. 

In contrast, the REMOTE Act, introduced by Reps. David Trone (D-MD), Mark Takano (D-CA), and Mike Levin (D-CA), would pay for the measure using emergency spending. 

AACRAO joined the broader higher education community in letters to Rep. Bost and Reps. Trone, Takano, and Levin, to express strong support of both bills. 

"We stand ready to work with you and your colleagues to ensure that legislation addressing these issues is passed by Congress and enacted into law as quickly as possible," the letters state. 

"These and other technical corrections address the implementation concerns raised by our college and universities while maintaining important protections for veterans," the groups added.

Michelle Mott
Categories :
  • Advocacy
  • Financial Aid and FAFSA
  • Higher Education Act
  • International
  • International Admissions and Credential Evaluation
  • International Education
  • Online and Distance Learning
  • Veterans and Service Members
Tags :
  • covid-19
  • Federal relations
  • gi bill
  • incentive compensation
  • Resources for Veterans Administration Certification
  • tuition
  • Veterans and service members issues
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