Continuing in our series of reviews of higher education bills that may be influencing the upcoming Higher Education Act reauthorization.  Please be sure and look at the first part in our review of bills, and the Alert we distributed last week that kicked this series off.

Higher Education Reform and Opportunity Act – H.R. 4612 / S. 1904

On January 9, 2014, Senator Mike Lee (R-UT) introduced the Higher Education Reform and Opportunity Act of 2013 (Rep. Ron DeSantis (R-FL) introduced a related bill to the House on May 8, 2014.) In a move to encourage innovation, this bill would allow states – through an agreement with the Secretary of Education – to create alternative accreditation process for institutions of higher learning.  Like currently existing forms of accreditation, state-created accreditation processes would be a gateway to Title IV participation by the accredited institution.

Importantly, these new alternative accreditators could confer accredited status on, among other things, any “postsecondary education course or program offered at an institution of postsecondary education, a nonprofit organization, or a for-profit organization or business” so long as the “entity provides credit that will apply toward a postsecondary certification, credential, or degree.”  In sum, companies like StraighterLine and the various MOOCs in existence can become Title IV eligible.

CREATE Graduates Act – S. 2506

On June 19, 2014, Senator Kay Hagan (D-NC) introduced the Correctly Recognizing Educational Achievements to Empower (CREATE) Graduates Act to the Senate. The bill would:

  • Authorize grant funding to institutions that will locate and award degrees to former students in the workforce who have enough accumulated education credits for an associate’s degree, but  never received one
  • Provide outreach to students within 12 credits of obtaining an associate’s degree and implement procedures to help future students receive degree audits and other important information about graduation requirements.
  • Establish partnerships between 2-year and 4-year institutions to help students transition into a bachelor degree program after earning an associates degree.

Student Right to Know Before you Go Act – S. 915 / H.R. 1937

On May 9, 2013, Senators Ron Wyden (D-OR) and Marco Rubio (R-FL), and Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-CA), introduced the Student Right to Know Before You Go Act to both houses of Congress. The bill would provide for more accurate and complete data on student retention, graduation, and earnings outcomes at all levels of postsecondary enrollment. To accomplish this, the bill would, among other things:

  • “Replace existing IPEDS reporting requirements with a state-based and individual-level system which excludes any personally-identifiable data.”
  • Require the new data systems to match individual transcript data to post-graduation employment and earnings outcomes
  • Further support a federal Statewide Longitudinal Data System
  • Make the data system – which would be disaggregated and not include personally-identifiable data – available for research.

Creating Higher Education Affordability Necessary to Compete Economically Act – S.2374 / H.R. 4902

On May 21, 2014, Senator Mary Landrieu (D-LA) introduced the Creating Higher Education Affordability Necessary to Compete Economically Act. (Rep. Loretta Sanchez (D-CA) introduced an identical bill to the House on June 19, 2014.)  The bill would:

  • Increase maximum Federal Pell Grant for 2014-2015 academic year, and award additional Pell Grants to students who have already received the grant.
  • Raises the period in which students may receive Pell Grant funding from 12 semesters to 15 semesters.