House Democrats Release Bill to Reauthorize the Higher Education Act

October 16, 2019

Yesterday, the House Education and Labor Committee, which is chaired by Robert C. “Bobby” Scott of Virginia, released the College Affordability Act to reauthorize the Higher Education Act of 1965. This legislation, which proposes several reforms to the Federal TRIO Programs, has received a mixed reception from the higher education community.

With respect to TRIO, the legislation embraces several proposals put forth by our community. Such language:

  • Prohibits the Department from disqualifying grant applicants for non-substantive formatting errors;
  • Includes documentation of Pell Grant eligibility and, in the case of Talent Search and EOC, documentation of attendance at a school at which virtually all of the students qualify for free/reduced lunch as sufficient to document low-income status;
  • Separates objectives for “transfer” and “postsecondary completion” in SSS and “graduate study” and “doctoral attainment” in McNair; and
  • Increases student stipends in the Upward Bound, Veterans Upward Bound, and McNair programs.

However, the legislation also includes proposals that, if enacted, would prove challenging for our community, such as the addition of outreach and reporting requirements regarding homeless individuals and foster care youth. Thus far, the legislation does not include the proposals to expand reporting requirements or create a subset of grants for students with disabilities.

COE will produce a chart delineating all of the proposed changes in the legislation. In the meantime, a copy of the TRIO section of the College Affordability Act may be viewed here Document is available for download (.pdf).

The introduction of the College Affordability Act is just the first step in the reauthorization process during this session of Congress. It will soon be considered by the full Committee on Education and Labor in a “mark-up” session and then likely proceed to floor of House of Representatives.

Currently, COE staff is meeting with Members of the Education and Labor Committee in anticipation of a markup of the bill in the coming weeks. COE will alert the community of the necessary action steps at the appropriate time.