October 16, 2019

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AASA Policy Priorities Advanced in Higher Education Rewrite

On Tuesday, the U.S. House Education and Labor Committee, led by Chairman Bobby Scott (D-VA), released its long-anticipated College Affordability Act, which offers Congress a pathway to comprehensively reauthorize the law governing the nation's higher education system. Similarly, to Chairman 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.

As we reflected on the 1,000+ page text of the bill we kept AASA’s higher ed priorities as outlined in our 2019 Legislative Agenda in mind. They are:

  1. Support the preservation and expansion of resources for future and current teachers to address the teacher shortage issue
  2. Support programs that assist and develop students entering and completing college and postsecondary programs
  3. Reduce and simplify the paperwork and application requirements for FASFA
  4. Support the maintenance of the 2001 Title IX Guidance to ensure each and every student has a safe and healthy learning environment.
  5. Ensure flexibility of Pell grants to be available for students regardless of age or current school enrollment

After reviewing the bill we are pleased to report that all of our major policy priorities were well addressed in the Democratic proposal. A section by section analysis of the changes AASA was pushing for in the reauthorization is available below. Ultimately, even though House Dems have dramatically scaled back their higher-ed proposal compared to the 2020 presidential candidates, House Republicans are not likely to support this bill given the $400 billion price tag. Chairman Scott hopes to have a vote in Committee soon on the bill and bring it to floor, but given the stalemate in the Senate reauthorization prospects look dim. Regardless, this legislation contains all of AASA higher education priorities and is a good starting point for higher education negotiations on Capitol Hill.   

    Title II 

    • Under Title II of the Act, the bill reauthorizes and expands the Teacher Quality Partnership 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), and increases the authorized spending level of the program to $500,000,000.    
    • Title II of the College Affordability Act also enables TQP grantees to develop "Grow Your Own" partnerships between high-need LEAs and IHEs for recruiting and supporting diverse paraprofessionals and other non-teaching staff in gaining professional certifications to teach in their communities.   
    • Finally, the bill authorizes funding for competitive grant programs under Title II part B at $100,000,000 to support IHEs interested in the following activities: improving teacher and school leader preparation programs at minority-serving institutions; increasing the number of teacher prep programs that dually certify teachers for special education and English-language instruction; and advancing doctoral and fellow research on high-quality instruction in educator shortage areas (e.g., SPED and English Language Learners).  

    Title IV 

    • Under Title IV, lawmakers made significant changes to U.S. ED's administration of the TEACH Grant program. Specifically, the law improves technical aspects of the program by redirecting its aid to junior and senior teacher prep candidates and expanding the maximum award amount to $8,000 per year. Furthermore, the bill also addresses critiques of the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program, which had been raised throughout this year. Specifically, lawmakers included language in the act to create one Income-Driven Repayment (IBR) plan, in an attempt to address the public's confusion about how to qualify for the program. House Dems also threw educators a win by streamlining the program so that teachers can count loan payments for the Teacher Loan Forgiveness program at the same time as PSLF, thereby reducing the number of monthly payments needed towards PSLF.
    • The legislation also increases the authorized spending level for the TRIO and GEAR UP programs to $1.2B.   
    • To encourage students to earn college credits early, the legislation provides states with funding to increase student access to early credit pathways, including dual enrollment, early college high schools, and Advanced Placement and International Baccalaureate programs. It expands access to dual enrollment for high school students and improves the transferability of short-term credentials and college credits to give students’ a broader array of options. It also increases total Pell eligibility from 12 to 14 semesters and allows students to use unspent Pell dollars toward a graduate degree, empowering students to continue building their skills. 

     Title IX  

    • 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.