Higher Education Reauthorization: A House Republican Bill Introduced
On October 4, 2007, Congressman Howard “Buck” McKeon (R-CA), Ranking Member of the Committee on Education and Labor and Congressman Ric Keller (R-FL), Ranking Member on the Subcommittee on Higher Education, Lifelong Learning, and Competitiveness of the Committee on Education and Labor, introduced H.R. 3746, the “College Access and Opportunity Act of 2007,” to reauthorize the Higher Education Act (HEA). This bill has a number of provisions that are similar to H.R. 609 that passed the House last session of Congress. It differs from S. 1642, the bill the Senate passed this body in July 2007.
The key accreditation provisions of H.R. 3746 are described below.
Accrediting organizations are to evaluate institutional success with respect to student achievement in relation to the institution's mission using, as appropriate, 1) consideration of student academic achievement as determined by the institution (in accordance with standards of the accrediting organization), 2) retention rates, 3) course and program completion, 4) state licensing examinations and 5) job placement rates.
This is consistent with H.R. 609 and very different from S. 1642 that eliminates the list of achievement indicators in current law and acknowledges that different achievement standards may be set by different institutions.
Transfer of Credit
Transfer of credit is considered in two sections of the bill, but addressed in different ways.
In Section 484 of H.R. 3746, transfer of credit is part of an institutional dissemination provision that calls for institutions to have policies as follows: “the policies of the institution regarding the acceptance or denial of academic credit earned at another institution of higher education, which shall include a statement that such decisions will not be based solely on the source of accreditation of a sending institution, provided that the sending institution is accredited by an agency or association that is recognized by the Secretary pursuant to section 496 (of the current Higher Education Act) to be a reliable authority as to the quality of the education or training offered” (emphasis added).
In section 496 of H.R. 3746, the transfer of credit provision states that the accreditor “confirms as a part of its review for accreditation or reaccreditation that the institution has transfer policies that are publicly disclosed and specifically state whether the institution denies a transfer of credit based solely on the accreditation of the institution at which the credit was earned” (emphasis added).
H.R. 3746 treats transfer of credit in the same manner as H.R. 609 from last session of Congress. It is different from S. 1642, which states that an institution must have a policy and that the policy must be publicly disclosed and include the criteria used with regard to transfer.
National Advisory Committee on Institutional Quality and Integrity (NACIQI)
H.R. 3746 would permit a member of NACIQI to serve after the expiration of a term and until another person is appointed to take the member’s seat. Current law requires a member to step aside at the end of a term unless reappointed. S. 1642 replaces NACIQI with a new Accreditation and Institutional Quality and Integrity Advisory Committee and changes the appointment process.
Compared to current law, the Bill requires additional work on the part of institutions and accreditors as a matter of general accountability. Some examples are:
- Accrediting organizations will require institutions to have processes that establish that the student who registers and participates in a distance education program is the same person who receives academic credit.
- Accreditors must enforce standards that “respect the stated mission of the institution of higher education, including religious missions.”
- The College Opportunity On-Line (COOL) Website will be redesigned to provide students and families with an expanded Web-based tool for researching institutions of higher education. The redesign calls for comparability and will require institutions to provide more information about their activities.
- The Secretary will fund a study of the best practices of states in assessing student learning, particularly as such practices relate to public accountability systems.
H.R. 3746 does not require that accreditors review every federally required disclosure to students or prospective students as S. 1642 requires.
Department of Education
On October 12, 2007 the Department announced that Undersecretary of Education Sara Martinez Tucker will be visiting college and university campuses in California, Florida, Kansas, Louisiana, New York and Texas this month to hear from students about the challenges they face in gaining access to and succeeding in college.
As reported by Vickie Schray, Senior Advisor to the Secretary of Education, at the ACCSCT Conference on October 4, 2007, the Department is scheduling a new round of regional summits later this academic year, apparently continuing the regional summit activity initiated in relation to the Secretary’s Commission on the Future of Higher Education.
CHEA will provide additional details concerning these events as they become available.
Congressman George Miller (D-CA), Chair of the Committee on Education and Labor, still plans to draft a committee bill to reauthorize HEA. We are hearing from the Chair’s staff that the intent is to reauthorize before the end of this calendar year.
CHEA will work with Chairman Miller to promote inclusion of provisions in the HEA that will best support quality improvement in higher education. CHEA continues to monitor Congress and to work with the higher education community on accreditation issues in reauthorization.