House and Senate Pass Higher Education Act

8/4/2008

This week, after 5 years of debate and setbacks, the House of Representatives and the Senate both approved the final conference report for legislation reauthorizing the Higher Education Act. President Bush is expected to sign the bill into law.

Within the final bill there are two issues of specific interest to the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE):

Accreditation
The language included in the House and Senate passed bills which would prohibit the Secretary of Education from dictating standards regarding student success have been restored in the final conference report. Troublesome language was included in a previous draft that would have allowed the Secretary to regulate in certain areas, including faculty and facilities. The final bill does not include this language. In addition, the final bill will restructure the National Advisory Committee on Institutional Quality and Integrity (NACIQI), shifting appointing authority from the Secretary of Education to the Secretary, the House and the Senate. The membership of the committee will expand from 15 to 18 and the terms of appointment will increase from three to 6 years. The bill will also require accrediting organizations to confirm that institutions publicly disclose their transfer of credit policies and to apply standards that respect the stated mission of institutions, including religious mission.

Loan Forgiveness
A new $10,000 loan forgiveness program for individuals serving in high-needs areas is created in the final bill. Qualified individuals are eligible for up to $2,000 in loan forgiveness each year for 5 years. Among the eligible professions include: child welfare workers, school counselors, public sector employees, medical specialists, mental health professionals, physical therapists, school administrators, and occupational therapists, among others. Additionally, the conference agreement includes further clarification of the public service definition in the 10-year loan forgiveness program established by the College Cost Reduction and Access Act (P.L.110-84) to specifically add nurses, allied health professionals, and early childhood educators. It is important to note that this legislation merely authorizes this program; it must be funded through the annual Congressional appropriations process in order to actually exist.

For additional details regarding key issues contained within the bill, please see the file below. As the bill is over 1,100 pages long, this list is not exhaustive. If you have any questions about this or any other CSWE Public Policy activity, please e-mail Wendy Naus.

Contact: Wendy Naus