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House Introduces 3 Higher Education Bills

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July 3, 2014

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House Introduces 3 Higher Education Bills

In conjunction with last week’s release of a white paper on its Higher Education Act (HEA) reauthorization priorities, members of the House Education and the Workforce Committee released three bills focused on their student financial aid and higher education transparency priorities.

Strengthening Transparency in Higher Education Act

The new transparency bill intends to replace the currently in use “College Navigator” website with a new “College Dashboard” site. The College Dashboard would allow prospective students and their parents to view key information on every institution that participates in a federal financial aid program and compare that information with other institutions.

The new dashboard website proposal includes measures designed to better account for today’s contemporary students who may not be first-time enrollees, including through the inclusion of data on certificate-seeking students. In addition to these inclusions, ACTE would also like to see measures designed to ensure accurate presentations of institutions and programs with low to no borrowing among participants.

The dashboard’s institutional comparison feature would allow users to compare four-year, two-year and less than two-year institutions. ACTE will be interested to learn more about how this feature will address the differing student populations and goals between types of institutions that often cannot be easily compared to each other.

Empowering Students through Enhanced Financial Counseling Act

Considered a key part of reducing over borrowing by students and helping them to understand their options and responsibilities in participating in the student financial aid programs, House Republicans are seeking to strengthen financial aid counseling. Through this bill, institutions would be required to provide aid recipients with annual counseling before any funds are disbursed in addition and a more robust exit counseling program.

Additionally, institutions would be able to advise students that they are not required to accept the full loan amount, and any available grant, scholarship or work-study position should be accepted before taking on a loan.

Simplifying the Application for Student Aid Act

The final bill released would make changes to the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) form to make it easier for students to apply for aid and to provide information on financial aid eligibility for high school students earlier. Similar to a bill proposed by Sens. Michael Bennet (D-CO) and Lamar Alexander (R-TN), this House bill would allow students to use their family income data from two years prior to the application deadline.

In the immediate future, ACTE does not expect HEA reauthorization to be completed; however, we do expect the committee to release additional bills addressing their other priorities. As those are being developed, ACTE is continually providing recommendations to Members of Congress on how HEA reauthorization can better serve CTE programs and students.

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