Two major pieces of higher education legislation are in the news. While the Workforce Investment Act (WIA) is making its way through Congress, both Democrats and Republicans are preparing for the reauthorization of the Higher Education Act (HEA).
For the first time since 1998, Congress is set to reauthorize the Workforce Investment Act. Some of the major provisions in the bipartisan reauthorization bill include an emphasis on career pathways and the attainment of postsecondary credentials, direct contracting with community colleges, the streamlining of various processes, and the elimination of inactive programs. More specific details surrounding the WIA reauthorization can be found here.
Simultaneously, separate white papers were released by Democrats and Republicans outlining their priorities for the reauthorization of the Higher Education Act. Health, Education, Labor, and Pension Committee Chairman, Tom Harkin (D-IA), unveiled the details of his Higher Education Affordability Act, which includes some of the following proposals:
· Creating a State-Federal College Affordability Partnership to increase state investment in public higher education and lower the costs of tuition for students.
· Reinstating year-round Pell Grants to enable students to get their degrees faster.
· Standardizing the financial aid award letter to help students and their families better understand financial aid packages when deciding where to go to college.
· Strengthening entrance and exit loan counseling by ensuring more comprehensive and easy to understand information is given to borrowers.
Meanwhile, Republicans from the House Committee on Education and the Workforce released a document titled “Strengthening America’s Higher Education System: Republican Priorities for Reauthorizing the Higher Education Act.” Although the priorities did align with some of the priorities outlined in Harkin’s proposal, some differences were worthy of highlighting, such as the preventing a federal government rating system, expanding the IPEDS database to capture more nontraditional students, and consolidating Title IV aid into a "one grant, one loan, and one work-study program.”