As our country enters a period of greater global competition for products and jobs, U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) today introduced the Higher Education Simplification and Deregulation Act of 2005 to help ensure that the U.S. remains the world’s leader in higher education.
“We don’t just have some of the world’s best colleges and universities. We have almost all of them, and the rest of the world knows that. The changes in this bill build on the successful model for American higher education,” said Alexander on the Senate floor to introduce the legislation.
“By making the financial aid process more user-friendly and more accessible, more students will have federal funds following them to the college or university of their choice. And by relieving some of the federal regulatory burden, we are restoring universities’ autonomy so they can spend more time teaching and researching and less time filling out paperwork.”
Alexander’s bill improves student access to available financial resources, reduces the burden of federal regulations on colleges and universities and preserves the autonomy and independence of the 6,000 institutions of higher education across the country.
In the 1999-2000 school year, 27 percent of undergraduates were “traditional” students – students who enrolled full-time in college directly after earning a high school diploma and depend on their parents for support. The typical student is actually a “nontraditional” student, such as a mother or an employed adult who is pursuing a second career path later in life. This bill provides flexibility to meet the needs of today’s students by:
• Simplifying the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, known as the FAFSA, and making it web-based.
• Providing for year-round Pell Grants because more schools are now open year-round.
• Requiring the Department of Education to publish a “best buy list” so students can access the web and more easily find information relating to financial resources and expenses at colleges and universities.
Alexander’s legislation also takes steps to reduce the bureaucratic red tape and federal regulations that burden colleges and universities. For example, there are more than 7,000 regulations associated with Title IV student aid programs alone, and in 1997 Stanford University reported spending seven cents of every tuition dollar on government regulations. The legislation addresses that by:
• Establishing an expert panel, appointed by the Secretary of Education, to review all regulations and make recommendations to Congress on streamlining the most burdensome.
• Developing a compliance calendar so universities are able to meet their reporting and disclosure requirements.
• Eliminating onerous reporting requirements relating to foreign gifts disclosure and changing ownership rules for non-profits.
In doing these things, the Higher Education Simplification and Deregulation Act of 2005 builds on the successful model for American higher education: autonomy, high standards and government dollars following students to schools of their choice.