Failure to pass the Higher Education Act
The bill, which initially expired in 2013, was extended to 2016 to allow Congress time to work out amendments and other changes, but issues like affordability and college costs; access, persistence and completion; better information for consumers; student loan programs; accreditation and oversight; innovation; sexual assault; and the burden of federal regulations remain in the balance.
Not a priority:
Members from both parties have indicated reauthorization is not a top priority, as healthcare and tax reform have monopolized most of the conversations since the new Congress was sworn in.
The Education Dive team named the failure of Congress to reauthorize the Higher Education Act the biggest missed opportunity in 2016 — and it takes the award again in 2017. Earlier this year, House Higher Education and Workforce Development Subcommittee Ranking Member Rep. Susan Davis (D-CA) said there's no timeline on reauthorization.
Higher ed hasn’t been much of a priority for the 115th Congress or the Trump Administration, but that isn’t new — K-12 has traditionally dominated priority lists for policymakers at all levels.
But there’s a lot on the line with the reauthorization of the HEA. Affordability and access will surely take center stage in the new bill, but increasingly, there is an imperative to address the needs of adult learners and non-traditional students. Accreditation, access and campus safety and sexual assault are also key components of the bill, and with the current climate of the country increasingly centered around sexual assault, there will be even more pressure to address it directly through the new bill.
However, neither President Trump nor Education Secretary Betsy DeVos have had much to say about higher education, and it is unlikely pressure will come down from the Executive Branch to hurry legislators along on reauthorization, leaving higher ed advocates hanging in limbo.
It is possible that instead of tackling a comprehensive higher education bill, legislators will tackle the important issues in the Higher Education Act reauthorization through other bills. For instance, the tax bill’s proposed penalties on endowments could be a push to force institutions to use their endowment funds to make college more affordable for more students, an idea which Republicans have floated multiple times.