Gone, But Not Forgotten: Departures Among Key Congressional Players in Higher Ed

By Brittany Hackett, Communications Staff 

The 114th Congress, which will begin in January 2015, is going to have a lot of new faces following a series of announced retirements and resignations among the 113th Congress, including several prominent members of both House and Senate education committees.

According to the latest stats from Roll Call, 31 members of the 113th Congress have announced their plans to retire, including 25 members of the House (10 Democrats and 15 Republicans) and six senators (four Democrats and two Republicans). In addition, 10 members have resigned or are in the process of resigning, including six representatives (two Democrats and four Republicans) and four senators (three Democrats and one Republican).

Some retiring members of Congress who have had a large hand in influencing higher education policies include:

Sen. Tom Harkin (D-IA): The current chair of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee (HELP) announced in January 2013 that he would retire at the end of this term. Harkin has served in Congress for 38 years and took over as HELP Committee chair in 2009 after the death of Sen. Ted Kennedy (D-MA). Harkin has been active in enhancing student protections around private student loans and consumer information In addition to championing the education programs, his signature legislative achievement is generally considered to be the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), which he introduced and guided to passage in 1990.

Rep. George Miller (D-CA): The ranking Democrat on the House Education and the Workforce Committee announced in January that he would not seek re-election in 2014 after serving 20 terms in the House. “I’m proud of what I have been able to accomplish on behalf of children, working people and the environment, in my district and for our country,” Miller said in a statement. “Now, I look forward to one last year in Congress fighting the good fight and then working in new venues on the issues that have inspired me.” Miller is the fifth most senior member of the House and has served in office for 40 years. Since first being elected in 1975, he has been instrumental in advocating for and passing multiple pieces of legislation to benefit postsecondary education. In early 2010, Miller co-sponsored legislation that made the single largest investment in federal student aid in U.S. history. This legislation expanded college access and provided funds to strengthen the Pell Grant.

Rep. Tom Petri (R-WI): A senior Republican on the House Education and the Workforce Committee, Petri announced his retirement on April 14. In the 110th Congress, Petri introduced the Income-Dependent Education Assistance (IDEA) Act, which would allow borrowers to consolidate their federal loans into an income-contingent repayment program. The payments would automatically be made through the IRS and adjusted according to the borrower’s income.

Rep. Buck McKeon (R-CA): McKeon announced his retirement in January after serving in Congress for 40 years. He is a senior Republican on the House Education and the Workforce Committee, having also served as Chairman, and has served as chair of the House Armed Services Committee since 2011. 

Rep. Rob Andrews (D-NJ): After serving in Congress since 1990, Andrews resigned in February. A first generation college student, Andrews served on the House Education and the Workforce Committee and the Higher Education and Workforce Training Subcommittee. Andrews was next in line to become ranking Democrat on the Education and the Workforce Committee. 

Rep. Carolyn McCarthy (D-NY): McCarthy announced her retirement in January. In 2009, McCarthy, along with two other members of the House, offered an amendment to the Student Aid and Fiscal Responsibility Act to strengthen financial literacy education. The amendment was adopted into the bill, which was signed by the president. McCarthy also cosponsored the Ensuring Continued Access to Student Loans Act, to aid families impacted by the recession in borrowing federal student loans. In addition, McCarthy worked to incorporate a number of her own provisions into the Higher Education Act, including: updating federal student financial aid programs in response to rising tuition; increasing access to higher education; and helping more low-income and minority students attend college.

Rep. Rush Holt (D-NJ): Holt announced his retirement in February. As a former educator, Holt has worked in Congress to invest in higher education and helped pass legislation to make college education more affordable and accessible. He wrote two provisions in the College Cost Reduction and Access Act to provide pre-paid tuition assistance of $4,000 for elementary or secondary school math and science teachers and to raise the amount that independent students may earn and remain eligible for financial aid. He also authored provisions in the Higher Education and Opportunity Act to allow Pell Grants to be used year round and for certificate programs and part-time students.


Publication Date: 5/1/2014

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