BILL TO REDUCE REGULATORY BURDEN ON HIGHER EDUCATION INTRODUCED IN U.S. HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES
A bill designed to reduce the regulatory burden on higher education through the repeal of several federal regulations was introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives on July 10, 2013. H.R. 2637 - the "Supporting Academic Freedom through Regulatory Relief Act" - is cosponsored by Education and the Workforce Committee chair John Kline (R-Minnesota), Subcommittee on Higher Education and Workforce Training chair Virginia Foxx (R-North Carolina) and Congressman Alcee Hastings (D-Florida).
The legislation would repeal existing regulations related to state authorization, definition of credit hour, gainful employment and other regulations. The bill also would prohibit the U.S. Department of Education (USDE) from promulgating rules defining credit hour at any time in the future and would prohibit USDE from issuing any regulations for state authorization or gainful employment until after Congress reauthorizes the Higher Education Act (HEA).
In a statement on the bill's introduction, Congresswoman Foxx noted the need for Congressional Republicans and Democrats to work together to pass legislation "to strengthen higher education for students and taxpayers while maintaining the flexibility and choice that set American colleges and universities apart."
The Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA) sent a letter on July 12, 2013 to Chair Kline, Chair Foxx and Congressman Hastings in support of H.R. 2637 and noting CHEA's longstanding concerns with credit hour and state authorization regulations.
HOUSE EDUCATION AND THE WORKFORCE COMMITTEE HOLDS HEARING ON INNOVATION IN HIGHER EDUCATION
On July 9, 2013, the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Education and the Workforce held a hearing titled "Keeping College Within Reach: Improving Higher Education through Innovation." The hearings was the latest in a series of hearings as the Committee prepares for reauthorizing the HEA, expected to begin later in 2013 or early in 2014.
The hearing - which featured witnesses from the Council on Adult and Experiential Learning, StraighterLine, Inc., the University System of Maryland and Western Governors University - focused on innovative policies and practices including competency-based education, distance education and online coursework and prior learning assessments. The impact of accreditation on education innovation also was discussed during the hearing, including the suggestion that accreditation may take place at the course level as well as at the degree or certificate level, to enable access to federal student aid.
Copies of the witnesses' testimony and an archived Webcast of the hearing are available on the Committee's Website.
LANGUAGE ON ACCREDITATION INCLUDED IN U.S. SENATE'S FY 2014 EDUCATION APPROPRIATIONS BILL
Language on accreditation was included in the FY 2014 U.S. Senate appropriations bill that funds USDE. The bill was passed by the Appropriations Committee on July 11, 2013 and now will be considered by the full Senate.
The language, added by Senator Jeff Merkley (D-Oregon), addresses programs that prepare students for gainful employment in occupations requiring licensing or other credentials. The bill mandates that such programs must meet all state and professionally mandated programmatic or specialized accreditation requirements in states where the program is offered in order to be eligible for federal student aid funding.
The bill reads: "None of the funds made available by this Act to carry out the HEA may be disbursed or delivered on behalf of a student or to a student to be used to attend a program, pursuant to 481(b) of the HEA, that prepares students for gainful employment in recognized occupations requiring licensing or other established requirements as a pre-condition for entry into such occupations, at an institution of higher education (or other post-secondary education institution), unless such program meets, in the State where the Department has approved the location offering the program, all applicable State or professionally mandated licensing, certification, and programmatic or specialized accreditation requirements to fully qualify a student who successfully completes the program to take licensing examinations or obtain credentials associated with the training provided in the program."
CHEA will follow this issue and will keep member institutions and recognized accrediting organizations informed.
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