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What Would the Repeal of Higher Ed's Foundational Law Mean for Colleges?


The following article was originally published by NASFAA on June 27, 2017.

What Would the Repeal of Higher Ed's Foundational Law Mean for Colleges?

"Remarks by Education Secretary Betsy DeVos this week focused attention on an idea that would fundamentally change higher ED: repealing its foundational piece of legislation –– the Higher Education Act of 1965 –– and replacing it with a new law," The Chronicle of Higher Education reports.

"Ms. DeVos first suggested in May that the law should be scrapped. And earlier this week, she told the Association of Public and Land-Grant Universities, 'Adding to a half-century patchwork will not lead to meaningful reform. Real change is needed.'

The law has been reauthorized eight times, and it is currently past due for another update — with several top senators pushing to revamp it. Lamar Alexander, a former college president and education secretary who also chairs the Senate’s education committee, is one of those senators. But the Tennessee Republican has also called for outright repeal in the past. 'Let’s write a new law — repeal the old law and have new regulations written with our oversight,' he said during a 2013 hearing to discuss reauthorizing the law. Senator Alexander suggested a new law 'not as an ideological exercise but simply in a way that someone would weed a garden before planting a new crop.'

He made similar remarks two years later, dropping the explicit support for repeal, but maintaining the idea that cumbersome regulations should be removed instead of written over. 'The Higher Education Act we see today — a nearly 1,000-page law with an equal amount of pages devoted to higher education regulations — is simply the piling up of well-intentioned laws and regulations,' he said.

What would repeal look like in practice?

Robert Kelchen, an assistant professor of higher education at Seton Hall University, said the idea of starting over with the law is appealing, given that parts of it are out of date. 'But trying to replace it with a coherent set of rules for colleges and universities,' he said, 'is probably too much for one Congress in the current administration to do.'

And for a Congress plagued by gridlock and low public approval, those concerns may apply doubly. But that doesn’t mean a future Congress won’t take up repeal of the act. What would a brand new Higher Education Act need to include for colleges and the students they serve?"



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The Chronicle of Higher Education: