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House Education Committee Approves Regulatory Repeal Bill

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July 26, 2013

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House Education Committee Approves Regulatory Repeal Bill

Early Wednesday the House Committee on Education and the Workforce passed the Supporting Academic Freedom Through Regulatory Relief Act, H.R. 2637, by a somewhat bi-partisan vote of 22-13. The bill repeals several recent higher-education-related regulations and implements a provision which allows schools to use third-parties for student recruitment services.

The first repeal is of the state authorization regulation, which requires institutions to be authorized by each state in which they operate. Portions of this rule related to distance education had already been vacated by the court system.  

The second repeal is of the credit-hour definition, a regulation that included a standard measurement of a unit which students are enrolled in. A credit hour is typically measured as one hour of classroom or direct faculty instruction and a minimum of two hours of out of class student work each week for approximately fifteen weeks for one semester, with equivalents for clock-hour and alternative programs.

The third repeal was that of the gainful employment regulation, requiring specific performance data to be collected by institutions and then used to determine institutional eligibility for federal aid.  The gainful employment data tracks information such as the amount of debt incurred, the on-time graduation rates, the cost of each program, and the placement rate of each student. Portions of this regulation have also been struck down by the court system.

Additionally, the bill allows for an institution to hire a third-party for student recruitment services as well as other services.

The advocates for the bill, including the American Council on Education, argued that these regulations are burdensome, inflexible and are driving up the cost of tuition. Opponents argued that the bill opens up loopholes for institutions to abuse taxpayer dollars and opens up the system to waste, fraud, and abuse. They believe that the regulations are necessary to protect students.

While the bill may be considered by the full House, it is unlikely the Senate will take up the legislation, and even more unlikely that it will ever pass. However, it does provide important insight into discussions that will likely occur during the upcoming reauthorization of the Higher Education Act.

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