Opportunities to Improve House HEA Bill

"The House Education and the Workforce Committee last month passed a bill that would significantly rework the nation’s main higher education law, but the committee chairwoman reminds stakeholders — especially community college advocates — that there are plenty of opportunities to change parts of the bill as it works through the legislative process," Community College Daily reports. 

I"n an interview Monday that included Walter G. Bumphus, president and CEO of the American Association of Community Colleges (AACC), Rep. Virginia Foxx (R-North Carolina) emphasized that the PROSPER Act — the House bill to reauthorize the Higher Education Act (HEA) — is not set in stone, and that she and the committee are open to hearing thoughts about the bill.

In the discussion, Bumphus highlighted parts of the bill that AACC supports, such as opening Pell Grant eligibility for certain short-term credential programs. He also noted parts of the bill that concern community colleges, such a language creating institutional risk-sharing and eliminating the Strengthening Institutions program (Title III-A).

Foxx noted that the members of her committee were very focused on the issue of improving student success and completion. That was the impetus for the risk-sharing language.

'In the past, it has not been taken seriously that students were not completing,' she said.

With regard to Title III-A, Foxx would like more statistics on the program, but the idea is to refocus funding for the program to have a larger impact on a broader range of students. But, she added, the legislative process is not completed.

'We are open to amendments, and we are open to continuing to listen,' she said.

Providing a higher education pathway

Foxx, who over her career has served as a community college president for nearly seven years, said the bill takes significant steps in reworking HEA. One of the biggest proposed changes is to open Pell Grant eligibility to students enrolled in short-term technical and career programs. She envisions certain short-term programs as the first step on a pathway to a baccalaureate and other higher degrees.

'When I was a community college president, I pushed over and over again for short-term certification within longer term programs,' she said. 'What we see here [in the bill] is the ability for community colleges to recruit students into certificate programs, diploma programs and degree programs and start them out in some short-term programs that will lead into those longer programs.'

It will help both employees and employers, Foxx said, noting that there are currently six million unfilled jobs in the U.S. The full range of business and industry — from grocery stores and restaurants, to manufacturers and construction companies — need skilled workers, and they are willing to participate in a system that allows their employees to earn stackable credentials and opens a career path for them, she said."

NASFAA's "Headlines" section highlights media coverage of financial aid to help members stay up to date with the latest news. Inclusion in Today's News does not imply endorsement of the material or guarantee the accuracy of information presented.


Publication Date: 1/31/2018

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