White House priorities for HEA reform

The White House on Monday issued an overview of what it would like to see in the reauthorization of the Higher Education Act (HEA), which didn’t include any major surprises. But it did include a few new details that could raise some eyebrows.

For instance, the Trump administration has sought to allow more for-profits to participate in higher education, claiming that competition would drive innovation to provide the skills that students need to secure available jobs more quickly and efficiently. No surprise there.

But the administration added in its proposals released Monday that it would like Congress to create a pilot program to “increase access to market-driven workforce development programs.”

“Non-traditional students interested in accelerated paths to careers should have access to innovative partners who can more effectively meet their needs,” according to a brief from the White House. “By offering options that look to the private sector for risk mitigation, we can both protect taxpayers and help more Americans use education as a ladder to achieve the American dream.” That’s sure to anger some education advocates and lawmakers who just last week held a House hearing on how some unscrupulous for-profits fleeced certain students and left them high and dry by closing down operations.

Several of the proposals appeared last week in the president’s proposed budget plan for fiscal year 2020. Those include expanding Pell Grant eligibility to high-quality, short-term programs that provide a credential or license in a high-demand field. In its HEA proposals, the administration noted that it also would like to expand student aid to qualifying inmates who are eligible for release in an effort to improve their ability to find jobs. (The American Association of Community Colleges supports both these ideas.)

The proposals also reiterated the president’s budget plan to hold higher education institutions more financially accountable for student loans. It added that Congress should provide colleges the authority to help students limit and manage their borrowing.

Last week, both the Senate and House education committees kicked off their efforts to reauthorize HEA with hearings that covered simplifying the federal student aid application and containing college costs.

About the Author

Matthew Dembicki
is editor of Community College Daily and serves as publications director for the American Association of Community Colleges.