Rep. Bobby Scott (D-VA), chairman of the House Committee on Education and Labor, on Friday released a report detailing which issues he intends to focus on in reauthorizing the Higher Education Act (HEA). In short, his message to fellow lawmakers, policymakers, and stakeholders: Don’t stop believing.
The report—“Don’t Stop Believin’ (in the value of a college degree)”—focuses on the ways in which higher education can help individual students and society at large, and proposes changes Scott and committee Democrats feel will help strengthen that value, such as expanding access to multiple pathways, increasing grant aid, simplifying the FAFSA, and creating a federal-state partnership to encourage states to re-invest in higher education.
The proposals align with the broad vision Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA), ranking member of the Senate education committee, recently outlined at an event in Washington, D.C. Scott’s proposals also overlap with a few Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN), chairman of the Senate education committee, released last month, including simplifying the FAFSA and improving the data available to students and families. While a few issues—such as simplifying the FAFSA and allowing for multiple pathways to a higher education—generally garner bipartisan support, the details about how exactly to go about making those changes tend to cause a breakdown in negotiations within the education committees.
“This report lays out the overwhelming evidence that a college degree is still well worth the cost,” Scott said in a statement. “As the Committee begins to debate solutions for the vast challenges in higher education, the findings in this report must guide our approach. Rather than diminishing the value of a college degree, we should recognize that all students should have access to the substantial financial and social benefits that come with a quality higher education.”
To improve access, the report suggested a “multi-pronged approach” including policies that would support high school students earning college credit early, simplifying the FAFSA, expanding access to “high-quality short-term stackable certificates,” and strengthening access programs for vulnerable student populations.
Scott also proposed increasing grant aid, creating federal-state partnerships, improving the student loan repayment system, and strengthening institutional accountability as ways to address affordability concerns.
The final focus area of the report was promoting completion. The report suggested improving the postsecondary data infrastructure, expanding access to pathways such as dual enrollment and short-term certificates, improving remediation to help students earn college credits, investing in other support services like child care or mental health services, investing in community colleges, Historically Black Colleges and Universities, and Minority Serving Institutions, and supporting campus diversity “and ensuring a safe learning environment for all students.”
“...[M]ore than 50 years after the initial passage of the HEA, America still falls short of the law’s original promise to open the door to and extend the benefit of higher education to all students,” the report said. “The next reauthorization of the HEA should aim to finally close those gaps in access, affordability, and completion that continue to prevent so many students from fulfilling their greatest potential. … Investing in higher education means investing in the country’s future and expanding opportunities for the newest generations to make our nation a better place.”
Publication Date: 3/10/2019