February 19, 2016

Giving It the Old College Try: Is Higher Education Reauthorization on the Table?

Jacob D. Beaver

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1 Judging by the bipartisan effort undertaken to reauthorize and revamp the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, this Congress has serious goals to fix a lot of the problems in the education sector. Now that ESEA has been dealt with, the next logical step is to look at the Higher Education Act.

2 The Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions led the early education effort, and we’d expect them to lead for higher education as well. News on that front, however, has been quiet. The hearing schedule for the committee is focused on health care issues, such as patient access to generic drugs and the state of mental health care in the United States. Chairman Lamar Alexander (R-TN) has said little about higher education reauthorization.

3 All that being said, there is reason for optimism. Ranking Member Patty Murray (D-WA) recently spoke of her desire to bring higher education to the forefront of the committee’s priorities. A number of hearings on the subject were held at the end of 2015, and Murray has said that a bipartisan bill is currently being worked on. The victory achieved on ESEA should be a marker that solutions can be found in the education sphere that both sides can be happy with. I would be surprised if we don’t see some action on the higher education front in the coming months.