November 1, 2019

(THE ADVOCATE) Permanent link   All Posts

November Advocate


Every month, the AASA policy and advocacy team writes an article that is shared with our state association executive directors, which they can run in their state newsletters, a way to build a direct link not only between AASA and our affiliates, but also AASA advocacy and our superintendents. The article is called The Advocate, and here is the November 2019 edition

This year negotiations began to reauthorize the Higher Education Act (HEA), which is the authorizing statute that determines the policies, procedures, and practices of the nation's higher education system. HEA is supposed to be reauthorized every 6-7 years and was last updated in 2008. Given the amount of time since the last comprehensive HEA reauthorization, lawmakers on Capitol Hill were eager to dust off the law that governs the nation’s higher education system and implement long-awaited administrative and programmatic changes that have been called for by policymakers on both sides of the aisle. Unlike previous HEA reauthorizations, the process this year began in the Senate as Chairman Lamar Alexander of the Health Education and Labor (HELP) Committee announced his retirement in 2020 and is seeking one last victory before leaving office.

Early in the process, Alexander indicated that he was committed to conducting bipartisan negotiations with Ranking Member Patty Murray. However, outstanding issues over Title II (teacher prep), Title IV (student aid), and Title IX (sexual assault and harassment guidance) effectively ended any bipartisan will to update HEA in the Senate. With his back against the wall, Alexander took an unprecedented move of introducing a piecemeal HEA package, dubbed The Student Aid Improvement Act, in an attempt to advance his bipartisan priorities of simplifying FASFA, increase the transparency of the cost of college, and extend Pell to short-term programs and incarcerated individuals. Furthermore, he also attached his HEA priorities with a separate $255 million bipartisan funding bill for black colleges and universities, and other minority-serving institutions to bypass negotiations with Senate Democrats. In response, Murray announced that the Democrats had no interest in a piecemeal approach, thereby kicking the can to the House.

On the House side, Chairman Bobby Scott of the Education and Labor committee released his comprehensive partisan reauthorization of HEA in October—called the College Affordability Act—after seemingly waiting for Alexander to make a move and several months of negotiations with other House Democrats. Similarly, to Scott’s 2018 Aim Higher Act, the bill takes substantial steps towards improving the affordability of post-secondary programs for all students, while also delivering on a set of liberal lawmakers' Higher Ed priorities. After reviewing the 1,000+ page text of the bill, AASA was pleased to find the following updates to the law:

Title II

·       Under Title II of the Act, the bill reauthorizes and expands the Teacher Quality Partnership (TQP) Grant program, which enables Institutes of Higher Education (IHE) and State Education Agencies (SEA) to partner with a high needs Local Education Agency (LEA) to create cohort-based teacher residency models that offer students clinical experience in school settings. Specifically, the Act expands the allowable use of TQP grants to develop school leader preparation programs (e.g., superintendent and principal pipelines); empowers TQP grantees to develop "Grow Your Own" partnerships for recruiting and supporting diverse paraprofessionals in gaining professional teaching certifications; and, increases the authorized spending level of the program to $500,000,000.

Title IV

·       Under Title IV, lawmakers made significant changes to the U.S. Dept. of Education TEACH Grant program by redirecting the grant’s aid to junior and senior teacher prep candidates and expanding the maximum award amount to $8,000 per year. Furthermore, the bill also tackles critiques of the Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) program by including language in the act to create one Income-Driven Repayment (IDR) plan that addresses the public's confusion about how to qualify for PSLF. House Dems also threw educators a win by streamlining PSLF so that teachers can count loan payments for the Teacher Loan Forgiveness program at the same time as PSLF, which reduces the number of monthly payments that educators need to make to qualify for loan forgiveness.

·       Additionally, under Title IV the bill encourages historically underrepresented student groups to earn college credits early by increasing the authorized spending level of the TRIO and GEAR UP programs to $1.2B. Moreover, the law emphasizes college completion by allocating additional funding to states so that students can access early credit pathways such as dual enrollment, early college high schools, and AP and IB and programs. Finally, the bill expands access to post-secondary programs by simplifying the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA).

Title IX 

·       Also, of importance to superintendents, the bill directs the Secretary of Education to abandon the U.S. ED's regulatory efforts to weaken existing Title IX guidance to IHEs and LEAs.


Following the release of the College Affordability Act, the bill was marked-up by the House Education Committee in the last week in October. AASA submitted a letter in favor of the legislation despite the fact that it was a highly partisan legislative product. During the mark-up Republicans expressed strong opposition to the bill, criticizing its $400,000,000 price tag as well as the bill's emphasis on four-year degrees. Still, House Democrats succeeded in advancing H.R. 4674 out of the Education and Labor Committee on a vote that was split down party lines (28-22). At this point, the measure is headed to the House floor for a final vote before it can move to the Senate, which according to reports, Scott hopes occurs sometime before 2020. That said, it’s unlikely that the College Affordability Act will advance any further once it hits the Senate, considering that the upper chamber is still under the GOP's control, and the act is far too progressive for rank and file Republican Senators. Moreover, depending on how the impeachment inquiry proceeds, much of the political breath on Capitol Hill is expected to be spent on prosecuting or defending President Trump. Consequently, this will leave little time for legislative matters. That said, AASA will keep you abreast on all the latest higher ed updates, so stay tuned!


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