Federal Flash: What’s in the New Bill to Rewrite the Higher Education Act?

House Democrats introduced legislation to
rewrite the Higher Education Act while the Trump administration worked on regulations
that could increase segregation in schools and decrease the number of students receiving
free and reduced price lunch. [Music] Hi, I’m Monica Almond and I’m joined by
Anne Hyslop. Let’s begin with the Higher Education Act. Anne? Chairman Bobby Scott of the House education
committee introduced legislation this week to rewrite the Higher Education Act or HEA. If you’re not familiar with it, HEA is the
federal law that governs higher education and sets parameters for things like the federal
student aid program, including repayment plans, Pell Grants that help pay college costs for
low-income students, and the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, a.k.a the FAFSA. Chairman Scott’s proposal, the College Affordability
Act, has three primary goals: First, it aims to lower the cost of college. For example, it would create a new federal-state
partnership to make community college tuition-free for all students. It would also increase the maximum Pell Grant
award by $500, making it easier for low-income students to afford a college education. Second, the bill seeks to improve the quality
of higher education through increased accountability. Ever since the No Child Left Behind Act, accountability
has been a central theme in K-12 policy. But higher education is different. The College Affordability Act would bring
greater accountability to higher ed through a number of policies, including by making
college accreditors focus on student achievement outcomes. Third, the College Affordability Act aims
to improve equity and opportunity. It would make undocumented students eligible
for student aid, strengthen civil rights enforcement, and allow incarcerated students to access
Pell Grants. The bill also includes policies to better
align high school graduation requirements with requirements for credit-bearing coursework
in higher education, expand access to dual enrollment programs, and reduce remediation. While the bill earned accolades from several
education organizations, not everyone was thrilled. Virginia Foxx, the leading Republican on the
House education committee, said QUOTE: “This bill does not address the underlying issue
of exploding college costs. In fact, by increasing burdensome requirements
and bureaucratic red tape the Democrats’ bill will contribute to rising college costs.” The College Affordability Act differs significantly
from legislation introduced in the Senate by education committee chairman Lamar Alexander. Alexander’s bill is a mere 169 pages and
offers a piecemeal approach, not a comprehensive HEA reauthorization. It is also more modest. For example, Chairman Scott’s bill would
increase the Pell Grant by 500 dollars and index it to inflation. Chairman Alexander’s bill would only increase
the Pell grant by 20 dollars. Information on the College Affordability Act
is available at the link below. The House education committee likely will
pass the bill within the next few weeks, with the full House taking up the bill later this
calendar year. It is unclear how action in the House will
impact the Senate, where things are moving much more slowly. We’ll keep you posted. While Congress works on HEA, the Trump administration
is busy on the regulatory front. Today was the deadline for comments on a proposed
rule to change the disparate impact standard used by the Department of Housing and Urban
Development and many other agencies to prevent discrimination. The administration’s proposal would make
it more difficult to prove that discrimination is taking place and advocates, including the
Alliance for Excellent Education, fear this could increase segregation in housing and
in schools. In a letter opposing the proposed rule, All4Ed
president Deb Delisle said QUOTE: “Federal policy should be a tool for increasing equity. This proposed rule would increase the alarming
degree to which historically underserved students attend schools that are racially isolated
and inequitably resourced.” The Trump Administration is also working on
regulatory changes that would affect the national school lunch program. Children in families that receive food stamps,
formally known as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program or SNAP, are automatically
eligible for free school meals without having to fill out additional paperwork. But the Administration’s proposal to change
eligibility rules for SNAP would decrease the number of children automatically certified
as eligible for free school meals. This week, after prodding from Chairman Scott,
the Trump Administration revealed QUOTE: “as many as 982,000 children would no longer be
directly certified for free school meals…” and reopened its public comment period on
the rule change. We encourage you to oppose this policy by
submitting a comment at the link below by November 1st. That’s all for today. For an alert when the next Federal Flash is
available, email us at [email protected] Thanks for watching.

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