Education Industry Reporter

House to Consider Repeal of State Authorization, Credit Hour Regulations

Posted in Accreditor News, Credit Hour, Department of Education, Higher Education News, Higher Education Policy, News from the Hill, Office of the Inspector General (OIG), State Authorization

Dennis Cariello

As reported by Inside Higher Ed, the U.S. House of Representatives is expected to consider the “Protecting Academic Freedom in Higher Education Act” (H.R. 2117), which would repeal the federal definition of a credit hour and end the requirement that colleges obtain authorization to operate from every state where they enroll students in online classes.  The legislation, which was authored by Higher Education Subcommittee Chairwoman Virginia Foxx (R-NC) and has 69 co-sponsors, currently has bipartisan support in the House, although the extent of such support is unclear.  While the bill seems likely to pass the House vote, it is unclear of its fate in the Senate.   While the Obama administration released a statement yesterday opposing the legislation, it did not threaten a veto if passed:
The Administration strongly opposes H.R. 2117, which would nullify certain Department of Education regulations that help ensure the integrity of the programs of student financial assistance under Title IV of the Higher Education Act of 1965. These regulations are necessary to prevent the inflation of the academic credits attributed to postsecondary education courses that could result in the over-awarding of Federal student aid, and for the efficient administration of the student financial aid programs. Congress should not prevent the Secretary of Education from responsibly administering these programs and ensuring that consumers and taxpayers are protected from fraud, waste, and abuse.

In a press release, House Committee on Education and the Workforce Chairman John Kline (R-MN) said, “We can’t tackle rising college costs without recognizing how Washington has contributed to the problem. Over the years, the nation’s higher education system has become increasingly complex with layers of new rules and programs. H.R. 2117 will repeal two troublesome regulations that pile additional costs and restrictions on colleges and students, and I am pleased to lend my support.”

“It’s time to stop complaining about the college tuition problem, and take concrete action by repealing two federal regulations that are costly and unnecessary,” Rep. Foxx said in the same release. “The Protecting Academic Freedom in Higher Education Act will repeal the credit hour and state authorization regulations – two mandates that insert the federal government into decisions that have historically been the sole responsibility of institutions and states.”

In a statement on the bill, Democrats against the measure have argued that the bill undercuts oversight of higher education: “the Department of Education’s Inspector General has identified loopholes that allow schools to ‘game the system,’ such as manipulating credit hours in order to receive more federal aid funds. Regrettably, H.R. 2117 would overturn the Department’s efforts to prevent such gaming and other efforts to ensure that students and taxpayers receive a quality education for their investment.”

The bill has garnered support from across higher education. As reported by Inside Higher Ed, “the American Council on Education sent letters signed by 98 higher education associations and accreditors to members of Congress on Monday, urging them to support the bill.”

Last June, the House Education and the Workforce Committee approved the Protecting Academic Freedom in Higher Education Act with bipartisan support in a vote of 27 to 11.