September 10, 2014
By Richard Doherty, AICUM President
On June 25th, Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA), Chairman of the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee, released the 750 word draft legislation reauthorizing the Higher Education Act, which was first passed in 1965. The Act has previously been reauthorized nine times, the most recent of which was in 2008, expiring on December 31, 2013.
The reauthorization of the Higher Education Act is of critical importance, as the act governs all federal activity related to higher education, including federal student aid, loans and accreditation. By releasing a draft document, Chairman Harkin continued a process that began in January 2013 with the swearing in of the 113th Congress. Throughout the session, Chairman Harkin and Senator Lamar Alexander, ranking minority member of the HELP Committee, held numerous hearings with higher education experts to gain further understanding of what was working in the higher education community and what areas could be improved during reauthorization.
Throughout this process, AICUM has been in constant communication with our senior Senator, Elizabeth Warren, who is an important member of the HELP Committee and key advocate for helping students manage their student loans. Senator Warren and her staff have been instrumental is relaying the ideas and concerns of our institutions back to the full committee. In fact, just last month, Senator Warren’s top higher education staffer, Julie Morgan, traveled to Boston to meet with our members to discuss Chairman Harkin’s draft and the next steps in the reauthorization process. We had a fruitful discussion with Julie and continue to be encouraged that the final language for reauthorization will strengthen higher education while ensuring greater access and affordability.
In response to a request from the HELP Committee, AICUM submitted written comments on Chairman Harkin’s “discussion draft” proposal. We used this opportunity to highlight sections of the draft that we felt would improve higher education – such as Year Round Pell – and also highlighted areas of concern – such as the State-Federal College Affordability Partnership. I hope you will take the opportunity to read our full comments about this important legislative process.