HEA Deliberations Resume in 2006
CHEA continues its central role with associations and accrediting organizations to address the several challenges to accreditation and quality assurance in the Higher Education Act (HEA). We are already very busy early in this new year, although many key decisions are not yet made about committee members and staffing in the new 109th Congress. Congress will not settle down to legislative work until it completes its historical role as host of the Presidential Inauguration on Thursday, January 20.
New Faces, Same Issues
While several of the key players have changed, the accreditation issues before the new Congress remain the same. New faces include Margaret Spellings as U.S. Secretary of Education and Senator Mike Enzi (R-WY) as the new chair of the Senate committee that handles HEA. Several new staff slots have been filled on the Hill and more will come shortly. Most important, CHEA sees these new players, and the returning cast of Washington leaders, as working on the same accreditation issues as last year.
Our key accreditation issues remain: distance learning, transfer of credit, student learning outcomes and the public reporting of accreditation results. You might recall that these are the same four issues that CHEA identified in April 2003, when we released our Reauthorization Agenda to set a broad outline of our goals for a new HEA law.
Since mid-November 2004, CHEA has convened or led many meetings, calls and consultations to prepare for HEA in 2005 with the new Congress. We have been huddled with accreditors, other higher education associations and institutional representatives to sort our best approaches to the accreditation issues. Proposals were made last year in Congress: some good, some poorly drawn and some quite awful. CHEA helped bring key players together to fashion responses and, where appropriate, alternative approaches. Progress has been made and we appreciate the hundreds of hours all of us have devoted to crafting the best ways to advise the Congress.
In the next month or two, we expect that the coalition we helped shape and sustain will work to bring a largely unified voice on accreditation issues to Hill leaders. We have arranged meetings of campus leaders with key members of Congress and these are continuing. We are pleased that John Boehner, the energetic and powerful chair of the House education committee, will keynote our 2005 CHEA Annual Conference in Phoenix later this month. Higher education will surely not win every point with the Congress, but we are confident that we can improve upon the accreditation provisions already proposed by Congressional leaders in 2004.
Keeping You Advised
CHEA seeks to remain a rich and valuable source of information, policy analysis and collaboration on accreditation issues in the federal domain. We will continue to tell you what is happening, to succinctly describe complex legislative developments, to seek your advice and help, and to be a focal point for addressing federal issues.
As always, we welcome your comments and inquiries. The Updates have proved popular and we appreciate the feedback from so many of you that it is helpful and worthy of your interest. Look for the next Update in February.