|Number 38, June 22, 2007|
On Wednesday, June 20, 2007, the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) passed a 534-page bill (S. 1642) reauthorizing the Higher Education Act (HEA). The bill was publicly available on Monday, June 18 and would extend authority for the federal government's higher education programs for five years. The HELP Committee hopes to move HEA to the Senate floor in July.
S. 1642 is a complex piece of legislation. Key elements of the bill for accreditation are:
The Senate bill also contains major changes with regard to the National Advisory Committee on Institutional Quality and Integrity (NACIQI) that reviews and recommends recognition for accrediting organizations to the Secretary of Education. Please see below.
In general, the Senate bill would put into federal statute much of what the Department of Education sought to accomplish in recent months through the negotiated rulemaking process on accreditation.
HELP Committee Chair Edward Kennedy's staff, Washington higher education associations and accrediting organizations are scheduled to meet on June 27, 2007 to discuss the accreditation provisions in S. 1642. Senator Michael Enzi (R-WY) and Senator Lamar Alexander (R-TN) both have said that they will continue to work to change the bill.
The House of Representatives Committee on Education and Labor is likely to introduce its version of higher education reauthorization late this summer.
National Advisory Committee on Institutional Quality and Integrity
Section 105 of S. 1642 to reauthorize the Higher Education Act replaces NACIQI with a new Accreditation and Institutional Quality and Integrity Advisory Committee. Whereas the 15 members of the current NACIQI are appointed by the Secretary of Education, the proposed committee would be made up of five members appointed by the Secretary, five members appointed by the the Senate and five members appointed by the House. In addition, some of the duties of the committee would shift as well. If S. 1642 is enacted, NACIQI will cease to exist 90 days after the law takes effect, to be replaced by the new committee.
Status of Negotiated Rulemaking on Accreditation
In a letter to Senator Lamar Alexander, Secretary of Education Spellings announced that the Department of Education will not publish proposed regulations regarding accreditation at this time. Senator Alexander released this letter during the HELP Committee markup on June 20, 2007. The letter was sent after Senator Alexander's floor statement on May 24 and after 18 members of the Committee sent a letter to the Secretary, asking her not to issue new regulations until Congress renews the HEA. In her letter, the Secretary states that the Department will work with the Senate to finalize statutory language in the HEA concerning accreditation.
The Senate Appropriations Committee marked up its version of the 2008 appropriations bill for Labor, Heath and Human Services and Education agencies on June 21, 2007. CHEA has been informed that it contains restrictions on the Department from implementing the acreditation negotiated rulemaking rules, restrictions that are similar to those that House Appropriations Chairman David Obey (D-WI) placed in the House Labor, Education and Health and Human Services appropriations bill.
Higher Education Regional Summits
CHEA participated in the Boston Regional Summit on June 14, one of the five meetings held by the Department in June as a follow-up to the National Summit held in March 2007. During the meeting, the Department announced that it would schedule another national summit in Washington, DC and would hold additional regional summits during the 20072008 academic year. We will share details of this plan as they become available.
This Update will inform interested parties on developments in the reauthorization
of the Higher Education Act (HEA). Please direct any inquiries or comments
to Jan Friis at
firstname.lastname@example.org or to (202) 955-6126.