CHEA HEA Update Logo Number 30, March 31, 2006

Yesterday the U.S. House of Representatives approved H.R. 609, the College Access and Opportunity Act of 2006, legislation to reauthorize the Higher Education Act of 1965 (HEA). The final vote was 221 to 199. This Update provides information regarding accreditation-related aspects of the floor debate and final bill.

On Wednesday, March 29, the day floor debate began, members of the higher education community, including CHEA, sent Representative Howard P. “Buck” McKeon (R-CA), Chair of the House Committee on Education and the Workforce Committee (HEW), their general views on H.R. 609. The letter explained that the bill at that point reflected some notable improvements compared to the original bill, but additional concerns remained. The letter was delivered before the House had announced all amendments that would be offered on the floor.

The House debated the bill for two days and considered 22 substantive amendments. As described below, three of those amendments related to accreditation. The attached chart (click here for chart) compares current law, H.R. 609 as passed by the committee, and H.R. 609 as passed by the full House.

The Manager’s Amendment sought to modify three accreditation-related provisions

The Manager’s Amendment offered by Chairman McKeon sought to modify provisions related to states as accreditors, religious missions, and accreditor review of federally mandated institutional disclosures. In general, the Manager’s Amendment:

  • Prohibited states to compel accreditation by a federally recognized state agency;
  • Replaced “inculcation of religious values” with “religious missions” in the provision that requires accreditors to apply standards that consider religious missions; and
  • Changed the federally required institutional disclosure that an accreditor must review as part of its accreditation process.

The Manager’s Amendment passed, although a subsequent amendment effectively mooted the states-as-accreditors provision.

The change to the religious missions language brings the House language closer to the language in the Senate’s HEA reauthorization bill, S. 1614. With respect to review of federally mandated institutional disclosures, the House and Senate bills remain substantially different, with the Senate taking what appears to be a broader approach to require review of all federally required institutional disclosures. In a later HEA Update, CHEA will provide a summary chart that compares H.R. 609 as passed by the House to the current version of S. 1614.

The Gohmert Amendment focused on states as accreditors

Among other measures, Representative Louis Gohmert (R-TX) proposed to remove the provision in H.R. 609 that would allow states to become federally recognized accreditors. The amendment prevailed by a vote of 418 to 2. The House-approved bill therefore maintains current law with respect to states as accreditors. The Senate’s HEA reauthorization bill also would maintain current law. Accordingly, it seems highly unlikely that any final legislation will expand opportunities for states to become federally recognized accreditors.

The Souder/Bishop Amendment altered transfer of credit

Representatives Mark Souder (R-IN) and Timothy Bishop (D-NY) proposed to eliminate the CHEA Transfer Principle as a federal mandate in H.R. 609. Their amendment maintained the bill’s requirement that an institution disclose publicly its transfer-of-credit policy and added a new requirement that the institution’s transfer-of-credit policy “state whether the institution denies a transfer of credit based solely on the accreditation of the institution at which the credit was earned.” The amendment passed by voice vote.

As explained in the attached chart, the bill as passed contains inconsistent provisions with respect to the CHEA Transfer Principle. Such internal inconsistencies, as well as differences between the House and Senate HEA reauthorization bills with respect to transfer of credit, will presumably be addressed when the Senate and House develop a single bill as part of the conference process.

Higher Education Act Extension

As reported in HEA Update #29, the HEA is set to expire on March 31, 2006. The Senate and the House have passed a bill to extend the law to June 30, 2006. The bill awaits President Bush’s expected signature.

What’s Next?

HEA reauthorization now moves to the Senate. At this time, the Senate has not scheduled action on its version of the HEA reauthorization bill. CHEA continues to monitor Congress and to work with the higher education community on accreditation issues in reauthorization. We will keep you informed of our efforts and progress.

This Update will inform interested parties on developments in the reauthorization of the Higher Education Act (HEA). Please direct any inquiries or comments to or to (202) 955-6126.

Copyright 2006, Council for Higher Education Accreditation. All rights reserved.