Reauthorization of the Higher Education Act

Higher education is a powerful engine of social mobility, and the benefits to society of more people earning postsecondary credentials cannot be understated. College graduates earn more. They are less likely to be unemployed. They are more likely to vote, more likely to volunteer, and more likely to maintain good health.

The original Higher Education Act (HEA) was adopted in 1965 to expand opportunity, so that no student would be denied a chance to participate in higher education due to financial limitations or socioeconomic status. Since then, the U.S. has made substantial progress in expanding college access. College-going rates are rising for students at all income levels and for every major racial and ethnic group. For example, among low-income high school graduates, college-going rates climbed from 23 percent in 1972 to 49 percent in 2013.

  • Improve college affordability for low-income students, students of color, and other vulnerable populations
  • Align federal investments with campus performance on equitable access and completion
  • Support innovation and the scaling of evidence-based practices for improving completion
  • Ensure that institutions of higher education protect the safety and civil rights of all students

Click Here for a Detailed Description of the Equity-Focused Priorities We’ll Be Fighting For

Accountability for Access and Completion in the Higher Education Act

Equity-focused accountability has the potential to refocus our higher education system on its most important purpose: successful outcomes for all groups of students. Congress must build upon current policy to create an accountability system that pushes institutions to serve students — especially low-income students and students of color — well.

See the Three Areas We Think Congress Should Prioritize

Investing in Pell is Investing in the American Dream

Pell Grants help make higher education accessible for over 7.5 million students. Pell Grant dollars are well-targeted to those in need:83 percent of Pell recipients come from families with annual incomes at or below $40,000, including 44 percent with annual family incomes at or below $15,000.

But today, the maximum Pell Grant is at its lowest purchasing power in over 40 years.

See the Three Ways Congress Can Strength Pell Grants

Supporting Innovation and Scaling Evidence-Based Practices for Improving Completion

Research from The Education Trust has consistently shown that the choices made by leaders of higher education institutions have a significant impact on who graduates and who doesn’t. In a reauthorized HEA, Congress should establish a completion innovation fund to spur institutions to prioritize student success by adopting practices that improve degree completion and reduce the amount of time it takes students to earn degrees.

See the Criteria Congress Should Use to Ensure This Fund Focuses on Improving Outcomes for Vulnerable Students

As of February 2018 both chambers of the U.S. Congress have begun work on reauthorizing the Higher Education Act.

In the House of Representatives, Representative Virginia Fox, chairwoman of the House Committee on Education and the Workforce has introduced and passed out of committee the PROSPER Act along party lines.

The Education Trust opposes the bill because it would move our nation’s higher education system backward and create more barriers for students of color and students from low-income families.

There are four major failings in the PROSPER Act that are detrimental to students from low-income families and students of color:

  1. Decreacing Access to Financial Aid
  2. Removing Protections From Predatory Institutions
  3. Limiting Data Availability and Utility
  4. Approaches to Accountability That Fail to Advance Equity

On the other side of Capitol Hill, the U.S. Senate has started their efforts with a series of informational hearings and Senator Alexander, chairman of the

Student Debt - $100 bills surrounding "Student Debt" with vertical lines imitating prison bars

Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions, has released a white paper regarding accountability in Higher Education.

While we are pleased the Senate’s efforts are focused on accountability and ensuring that every dollar the federal government invests in higher education is used effectively, efficiently, and in the best interest of the increasingly diverse public, we believe that Senator Alexander’s approach is woefully inadequate.

Tiffany Jones, director of higher education policy, breaks down the details and shows how it misses the mark on equity.