House Education and Labor Committee Approves Bill to Reauthorize the Higher Education Act

November 4, 2019

Last week, the House Education and Labor Committee, which is chaired by Robert C. “Bobby” Scott of Virginia, held a three day markup of the College Affordability Act to reauthorize the Higher Education Act of 1965. The committee considered nearly 50 amendments. The bill passed out of committee along a party line vote (28-22). Chairman Scott hopes to get the bill onto the floor of the House of Representatives by the end of 2019. Even if the bill passes the House, most observers believe there will be no action in the Senate due to continued disagreement on key issues such as campus safety and accountability.

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 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).

COE continues to meet with Members of the Education and Labor Committee and other key legislators in anticipation of consideration of the bill on the House floor. COE will alert the community of the necessary action steps at the appropriate time.