The House of Representatives has seen a lot of action on the higher education front this year.  Not only has Committee on Education and the Workforce (Ed and Workforce) Chairman John Kline passed a number of bills out of committee that were ultimately passed by the House, but there has been a flurry of other activity in the lower chamber.  Indeed, in addition to “Expanding Opportunity in America,” a proposal put forth by Budget Chairman Paul Ryan that has a number of higher education proposals (and was discussed in our Education Alert last week), the House has seen a broad number of bills to address a host of higher education issues.

The following bills have passed the House:

Advancing Competency-Based Education Demonstration Project Act – H.R. 3136

On September 19, 2013, Representative Matt Salmon (R-AZ) introduced the Advancing Competency-Based Education Demonstration Project Act to the House. The bill passed the House on July 23, 2014 by a vote of 414 to 0, and enjoyed 10 bi-partisan co-sponsors (including Ed and Workforce Chairman John Kline and Ranking Member George Miller).  The bill would create a competency-based education initiative.  Specifically, the bill would

  • Implement competency-based education demonstration projects at up to 20 volunteer institutions.
  • For the pilot programs, allow the Secretary of Education to waive current statutory and regulatory requirements (i.e. seat time and credit hours) to receive funding
  • Require an annual evaluation of each demonstration project to determine successes and obstacles for competency-based education programs going forward.

Strengthening Transparency in Higher Education Act – H.R. 4983

On June 26, 2014, higher Education Subcommittee Chairwoman Virginia Foxx (R-NC) introduced the Strengthening Transparency in Higher Education Act to the House. The bill passed the House by a voice vote on July 23, 2014, and enjoyed 16 co-sponsors (including Reps. John Kline and George Miller). The bill would streamline higher education information disclosures and require publication of those disclosures via one College Dashboard website.

Empowering Students Through Enhanced Financial Counseling Act – H.R. 4984

On June 26, 2014, Rep. Brett Guthrie (R-KY) introduced the Empowering Students Through Enhanced Financial Counseling Act to the House. The bill passed the House on July 24, 2014 by a vote of 405-11, and enjoyed 16 co-sponsors (including Reps. John Kline and George Miller).  The bill would:

  • Ensure yearly interactive counseling for all borrowers (not just first-time borrowers) tailored to their individual borrowing circumstances. Counseling can be either online or in-person to suit the borrower’s needs.
  • Require borrowers to consent each year before receiving federal student loans.
  • Require annual counseling about Pell Grant program.
  • Create a consumer-tested, online counseling tool for institutions to act through when providing counseling.
  • Remove “sample information showing the average” from borrowing explanations, and replace with info based on the borrowers actual outstanding balance.

In addition, the following bills have also been introduced in the House: Simplifying the Application for Student Aid Act – H.R. 4982

On June 26, 2014, Representative Larry Buschon (R-IN) introduced the Simplifying the Application for Student Aid Act to the House. The bill would streamline the financial aid application process by using income tax data to pre-fill sections of the FAFSA form, as well as allow students to use family data from two years ago to fill out the application earlier.

Transferring Credits for College Completion Act – H.R. 4348

On April 1, 2014, Ranking Member George Miller (D-CA) introduced the Transferring Credits for College Completion Act. The bill would

  • Require public institutions of higher learning to enter articulation agreements with the other schools in its state and create a 30-credit hour common general education core curriculum.
  • Require disclosures on the College Navigator website of completion time rates for transfer students.
  • Mandate that a transfer student with an associate’s degree will enter another public school in the state as an academic junior.

CAMPUS Debit Cards Act – H.R. 4714

On May 22, 2014, Ranking Member George Miller (D-CA) introduced the Curbing Abusive Marketing Practices with University Student (CAMPUS) Debit Cards Act. The bill is currently enjoys 66 cosponsors (including Rep. Robert Scott, who is the likely Ranking Member in the next Congress, with the retirement of Rep. Miller). The bill would require institutions of higher learning with preferred banking arrangements with a financial institution to develop a code of conduct. At minimum, this code of conduct would eliminate conflicts of interest, revenue-sharing, solicitation of gifts or compensation, and undue favoritism. The bill would also prohibit the institution from influencing a student’s choice of financial institution or delaying disbursement of credit balances based upon the student’s choice.  In addition, the bill would:

  • Prevent schools from delaying or blocking aid disbursement based upon the student’s choice of financial institution.
  • Require the Secretary of Education to begin a pilot program to give students needed credit balances a low-cost option.
  • Require Financial institutions to make campus contracts public, and submit details of campus arrangements to the Consumer Finance Protection Board (CFPB)