The U.S. House Education and the Workforce Committee convened on Tuesday to debate and vote on amendments and other changes to the chamber's proposed legislative rewrite of the Higher Education Act (HEA).
During the roughly 14-hour marathon markup, the committee considered more than 60 amendments to the Promoting Real Opportunity, Success, and Prosperity through Education Reform (PROSPER) Act. The panel approved the bill largely as written, adopting only a handful of mostly minor amendments. However, one major amendment—introduced by Rep. Jared Polis (D-CO) and approved close to midnight by unanimous consent—advanced the Reverse Transfer Efficiency Act of 2017 (H.R. 3774). The measure, sponsored by Reps. Polis and Luke Messer (R-IN) and championed by AACRAO, would create a new FERPA exemption that would allow the sharing of student information between institutions to facilitate increased college completion rates.
Of the rejected amendments, offered primarily by Democrats on the committee, one would have attached the Dream Act to the legislation. Another sought to expand financial aid eligibility Dreamers. Other failed Democratic amendments would have repealed the federal student unit record ban, restored Obama-era regulations on for-profit institutions, and made Pell Grant funding mandatory, among other things.
While we were heartened to see the inclusion of the Reverse Transfer language in the panel-approved legislation, AACRAO is still concerned by numerous other provisions included in the bill. Ahead of Tuesday's markup, the association joined a coalition of 37 higher education groups in a letter to the committee's leadership outlining issues that we believe will make college more expensive for millions of students and families.
Some measures, including the elimination of the in-school interest subsidy for undergraduate students, the elimination of the 1.5 million grants to students made through the Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant program, and the elimination of loan forgiveness and other benefits currently available in the student loan programs, would immediately increase the cost of college. The bill would also limit federal graduate loans and reduce funding for the TRIO program by $50 million. Additionally, the legislation would make significant changes in federal higher education policy without a clear understanding of the likely consequences, including weakening federal oversight of fraud and abuse in the federal aid system and revising the return of Title IV funds.
The House GOP's PROSPER Act, which passed out of committee on a party-line vote of 23-17, will now move to the full chamber for consideration. The Senate education committee has signaled its intent to to mark up its own version of legislation to reauthorize the HEA early next year. Discussions on the Senate side are expected to be more bipartisan, and some provisions in the House bill could face resistance.
AACRAO will continue to closely monitor any developments and engage with lawmakers in both parties and chambers as the reauthorization process moves forward.