Background Brief: Higher Education Act Reauthorization

Policy and Advocacy

The Higher Education Act (HEA) of 1965, signed into law by President Lyndon Johnson, was originally intended to expand the federal government’s role in higher education policy, including provision of federal financial assistance to students, specifically those from lower-and middle-income families. It’s important to note that HEA was always intended to be a way to expand access to higher education for lower-and middle-income students. Equally important is to recognize that the Act does not work to support higher education through a distinct federal-state partnership model, like that used in Medicaid or other social service programs. Instead, HEA created federally funded student aid programs and financial support for programs and institutions serving specific types of students intentionally to encourage those who historically didn’t consider college to complete some postsecondary training. Even in 1965, President Johnson recognized the need for our nation to pursue higher levels of postsecondary educational attainment to address national problems like poverty and community development.