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 Higher Education Act (HEA) was first passed 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, but there are still gaps in college access and degree completion that are holding back millions of American students and our country as a whole.

  • Improve college affordability for students from low-income backgrounds, students of color, and other underserved populations;
  • Increase institutional accountability for equitable access and success;
  • Invest in the development and scaling of evidence-based practices for improving student success; and
  • Ensure students’ safety and civil rights are protected.

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

Accountability for Access and Success 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 students from low-income backgrounds 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: It covers less than 30 percent of the average cost of attendance at a public four-year institution.

See the Three Ways Congress Can Strengthen Pell Grants

Investing in the Development and Scaling of Evidence-Based Practices for Improving Student Success

Research from The Education Trust has consistently shown that, with dedicated and intentional effort, institutions can close access and completion gaps between students from low-income backgrounds and students of color and their peers and improve outcomes for all students.

A reauthorized HEA should invest in institutions as they work to identify, implement, evaluate, and scale practices that improve completion, particularly for the students who are most at risk of dropping out.

See the Criteria Congress Should Use to Ensure Investments Focus on Improving Outcomes for Underserved Students

Investing in Second Chances: Lifting the Ban on Pell Access for Incarcerated Students

As our country continues to grapple with how to best reform the criminal justice system, there is bipartisan momentum at the federal level to support high-quality postsecondary educational options in prison.

The logical first step would be for Congress to lift the ban on Pell Grant eligibility for students who are incarcerated.

Congress can and should act now to repeal the ban on Pell Grant access for students who are incarcerated

What is going on with the Higher Education Act?

Over the last two years there have been many suggestions for how to best update the Higher Education Act.

Read back through our statements, testimony, and analysis of each proposal and our commentary on other pressing issues that we think should be included in an update to this important civil rights law.

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