Bill to Renew Higher Education Act: Many Ideas, Little Hope of Passing

With only days remaining until his retirement, the Democratic chairman of the Senate education committee, Tom Harkin of Iowa, formally introduced legislation on Thursday offering his vision for renewing the Higher Education Act.

The 874-page bill builds on a draft that Senator Harkin released in June, adding provisions that would extend and reform the endangered Perkins loan program and the other campus-based aid programs; restore year-round Pell Grants to part-time students; and offer Pell bonuses to institutions that enroll low- and moderate-income students.

The bill would also create a unit-record system for tracking students, with privacy protections aimed at preventing the disclosure of sensitive information on students.

But many of Mr. Harkin’s ideas face a difficult road ahead. The measure is unlikely to advance in the current Congress, which ends just after the New Year. After that, Republicans will take over the Senate, and Sen. Lamar Alexander, Republican of Tennessee, will become chairman of the Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions, or HELP. He has his own ideas about reauthorization, and plans to draft his own bill.

Even so, Mr. Harkin’s bill represents a starting point for negotiations between the parties. And some of the ideas may make it into Mr. Alexander’s measure, if the new chairman keeps his promise to involve Democrats in the drafting. <Read more.>

Via Kelly Field, The Chronicle of Higher Education.