Congressional Hearings Inform Higher Education Reauthorization

Separate panels of the U.S. House and Senate held hearings last week as Congress moved forward in the discovery phase of reauthorizing the Higher Education Act.

The Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions focused its hearing on the “triad” of state governments, accrediting agencies and the federal government, which together work to ensure the quality of higher education.

Committee Chairman Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, advised that the committee plans to conduct a dozen hearings over the coming months to explore legislative changes to improve the higher education system.

On the House side, the Subcommittee on Higher Education and Workforce Training, heard college leaders discuss “Keeping College Within Reach: Improving Access and Affordability Through Innovative Partnerships.”  

Although the hearings covered disparate topics, the common theme at both hearings was the overarching concern about the affordability of college.

Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., ranking Republican on the Senate education panel, suggested rewriting the Higher Education Act “from scratch.”

Actual reauthorization legislation is unlikely to appear until 2014. The last reauthorization of the act was in 2008.