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Federal Update 8

August 1, 2008


Higher Education Reauthorization Act Moves to Completion

Reauthorization of the massive Higher Education Act, which authorizes the federal government's core student aid programs, is nearing completion. The last time the 1965 Act was modified was 1998. As with any comprehensive legislation, the final product is a compromise which contains some positive outcomes for higher education as well as several not-so-good results. As contents of the legislation are still being analyzed, a few of the most noteworthy provisions are described below.

Current policies for accreditation of higher education institutions are maintained, which prohibits the Department of Education from issuing new accreditation regulations. This outcome has been a priority for IU and the higher education community. Various attempts throughout the legislative process to give the federal government a significant role in the accreditation process were all defeated.

Another achievement is the Act's expansion of the Pell Grant program to a full calendar year. It also sets an eventual ceiling on the maximum Pell Grant at $9000.

Unfortunately, and in spite of the higher education community's advocacy efforts, the conference report will require significantly more reporting from individual colleges and universities regarding nearly every aspect of university life. Universities will be required to provide data to the Education Department on alumni, student diversity, on-campus crimes, graduate ratios, efforts to address illegal file sharing, and efforts to control costs.

The agreement also directs the Secretary of Education to publish annual lists of institutions and their tuition. There is an additional requirement that universities with the largest annual percentage increases must provide information on the factors which contributed to the increased costs and the institution's plan to prevent further significant escalations. These provisions are particularly problematic for public institutions.

Most of the provisions in the conference report will become effective immediately upon enactment, which could occur in the next few days.

The HEA conference report can be found here:

Statement of Managers can be found here: