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.




Maryland Lawmakers Pass Measure to Close 90/10 Loophole

Mar 19, 2020, 13:38 PM
legacy id :
Summary : Legislation would limit the revenue for-profit colleges can receive from enrolling veterans.
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Maryland is poised to become the first state to limit the revenue for-profit colleges can receive from enrolling veterans, reported The Washington Post and Inside Higher Ed.

The Maryland House of Delegates unanimously passed legislation to close a loophole in the 90/10 rule, which bars for-profit colleges from getting more than 90 percent of their operating revenue from federal student aid. Under the federal rule, military and veterans' education benefits do not count toward that threshold despite being federal aid, an exception that some veterans groups say invites aggressive recruitment from unscrupulous for-profit schools.

Under the approved measure, all federal funding that for-profit colleges operating in Maryland receive would count toward the 90/10 rule. It would also begin barring for-profits that receive more than 90 percent of their revenue from federal funds, including military benefits, from enrolling Maryland residents.

Additionally, Maryland's regulation would apply to for-profit schools based in other states that enroll residents in online education programs—a restriction that could encounter problems, Inside Higher Ed reported.

The measure passed the Maryland Senate in February and will now go to Republican governor Larry Hogan. A Hogan spokesman said only that the governor will consider signing the bill when it comes to him.

At the federal level, efforts to treat military education benefits the same as federal student aid under the revenue rule have stalled, reported the Post. Some Republican lawmakers have questioned the fairness of the 90/10 rule because it applies only to for-profit colleges. However, bipartisan support appears to be growing.

In November, Senate Education Committee Chairman Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) threw his support behind a bipartisan bill—introduced by Sens. Thomas Carper (D-DE), James Lankford (R-OK), Bill Cassidy (R-LA), and Jon Tester (D-MT)—to close the loophole. The legislation, the Protect VETS Act, would end the exemption and impose penalties for violating the revenue rule. While the bill stalled in committee, higher education experts expect it will make its way into broader legislation to reauthorize the Higher Education Act.

Related Links

Inside Higher Ed


The Washington Post


Michelle Mott
Categories :
  • Admissions and Recruitment
  • Advocacy
  • Financial Aid and FAFSA
  • Higher Education Act
  • Online and Distance Learning
  • State Relations
  • Veterans and Service Members
Tags :
  • 90/10 rule
  • Federal relations
  • for-profit colleges
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