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Higher Education/Student Loans




As Congress begins its consideration of the reauthorization of the Higher Education Act (HEA) in the summer of 2014, NEA is actively engaged.  Our three million members include over 215,000 higher education faculty and staff who work in community and technical colleges as well as four-year public and private colleges and universities, including flagship research universities. 

 

NEA Higher Education Priorities for 2014

  • NEA believes that student aid programs must increase grant levels, decrease the cost of loans, and expand loan forgiveness programs that encourage public service careers.  In addition, NEA believes in the continuation of the entire range of federal student aid programs, including supplemental grants, college work-study, Perkins loans, fixed rate loan consolidations, loan forgiveness and income based repayment in order to meet the differing needs of different students.  (See below for more on NEA’s Degrees not Debt campaign)
  • NEA believes students and their families must be provided information enabling them to make the best decisions about post-secondary programs for their overall academic, career, and economic goals.  Such information must go far beyond tuition and fee information to include institutional mission, program outlines, and educational expectations.  The differences between institutions is often far more about differing goals, than differing quality or value.   
  • NEA strongly supports innovations in the policy and practice of post-secondary education, including increased use of technology both in the classroom, and in remote settings.  However, NEA strongly insists that decisions concerning such innovations must be based on educational goals and practices, not simply on cost reductions, and that faculty and staff be involved in developing, implementing, and assessing such innovations. 
  • NEA wants to ensure that teacher candidates are profession-ready the first day they enter the classroom as teachers of record.  This involves supporting and promoting high quality residence programs, high-quality teacher preparation standards, and strongly advocating for candidate performance assessments (e.g. edTPA — education teacher performance assessment). 
  • NEA wants to focus on new teacher evaluation systems as they are being developed and implemented across the country, particularly issues pertaining to federal and state legislation around teacher evaluation, multiple measures, including leveraging the skill-sets of high quality teachers to support new and struggling teachers.

Degrees not Debt Campaign

NEA’s Degrees Not Debt campaign aims for educational equity for all—making sure students can get the education they need to get a good job, own a home, and eventually send their own children to college. We believe Every American deserves a fair shot at higher education. But student debt has become a barrier to accessing the American Dream. Learn more about the campaign and take our pledge.

HEA Reauthorization Proposals

On June 24, 2014, Rep. John Kline (R-MN), the Chairman of the House Committee on Education and the Workforce, released the Republicans’ 11-page memo on their HEA priorities (PDF icon PDF, 528 KB, 11 pp.).  Their plan includes streamlining and consolidating federal student aid programs as well as eliminating many regulations affecting colleges.

The House Republicans are scheduled to release their first in a series of bills to address the reauthorization in late June or early July.  This bill will address innovation, financial literacy, and transparency.  Democrats have objected to this procedure of rolling out separate bills and prefer that the entire bill is considered as one measure.  While no HEA bill summary has been released by House Democrats, it is expected that they will support measures to tighten control over for-profit colleges and expand year-round Pell Grants.      

On June 25th, Senator Harkin released the Senate Democrats outline of HEA reauthorization (PDF icon PDF, 382 KB, 3 pp.).  The introduced legislation includes year-round Pell Grants, new federal accountability measures for colleges, and increased consumer protections for student loan borrowers.   NEA supports a focus on making higher education more affordable, reducing student debt, and increasing accountability and transparency in every area.  The proposed legislation is also includes a revision of Title II that would reflect current “best practices” and address the pressing challenges our nation faces with regard to teacher preparation, and for recognizing faculty and staff as stakeholders in the higher education enterprise.  

Work in the Senate on the reauthorization of HEA also includes a bill by Senators Alexander (R-TN) and Bennet (D-CO) to tackle student debt issues.  While simplifying the student loan process and expanding the Pell Grant program to year-round are important priorities to NEA, we will continue to work with the Senate to ensure that any reauthorization does not eliminate student lending options or overly simplify the FAFSA process.  Some form of this bill is expected to be addressed in both the final House and Senate-considered pieces of legislation.    

Educators believe all students who wish to do so should be able to pursue higher education and their dreams, regardless of ability to pay. Today’s students are tomorrow’s educators, doctors, nurses, engineers, and scientists—the next generation of innovators who will drive our country and our economy forward. We owe it to them and to ourselves to give them a shot at fulfilling their dreams. 

Workforce Investment Act (WIA)

Congress passed the Workforce Investment Act (WIA) in 1998 to replace the Job Training Partnership Act (JTPA). WIA is the largest source of federal funding for workforce development activities. WIA established a universal access system of one-stop career centers, which provide access to training and employment services for the American workforce, including low-income adults, low-income youth and dislocated workers. 

Compromise reached on long overdue reauthorization of WIA

The Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act, a bipartisan compromise on the long overdue reauthorization of the Workforce Investment Act, was unveiled in May 2014 and could soon be passed by both the House and the Senate. NEA is encouraged by several provisions—among them, maintaining labor representation on workforce boards and key funding streams, providing work-based learning opportunities for youth, and ensuring federal programs that partner with the workforce system can still meet their primary obligations. Further details will be provided in future issues of the Education Insider.

Senate Committee approves WIA reauthorization

In July 2013, by a bipartisan vote of 18-3, the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee passed its version of the Workforce Investment Act (WIA) reauthorization, (S. 1356), which comprises federal programs in adult and youth job training, adult and family literacy, and vocational rehabilitation. Sens. Richard Burr (R-NC), Tim Scott (R-SC) and Pat Roberts (R-KS) were the only No votes on the bill; Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) declined to vote.

S. 1356 improves program alignment, enhances the focus on attainment of post-secondary credentials, and heightens the role of educators in vocational rehabilitation. NEA has actively sought reauthorization of WIA for many years and supports these elements of the bill. We also suggested additional improvements and raised a few concerns, including possible threats to Perkins Career and Technical Education funding by allowing its use for job training program administration instead of the career-tech education program support for which the funds are intended. See NEA’s letter to the HELP Committee here. There is no current timetable for Senate floor action. The House passed an NEA-opposed partisan bill earlier this year.

House Passes WIA Reauthorization

The House passed the NEA-opposed Supporting Knowledge and Investing in Lifelong Skills Act or SKILLS Act (H.R. 803) on March 15, 2013. This bill is the House Republican leadership’s version of Workforce Investment Act (WIA) reauthorization. NEA opposed H.R. 803 because of its proposed consolidation of categorical programs and their funding streams, its failure to require the input of educators and labor unions to the workforce investment system, and because funding for key workforce and education programs and services could be used for other than their intended purposes.

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