U.S. Senator Lamar Alexander today supported passage of higher education legislation out of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee, but noted lingering concerns about overregulation.
“This bill doubles the amount of regulations and rules for higher education,” said Alexander, a member of the committee. “If we are sending money to colleges and universities, we ought to look after it. But we shouldn’t overburden the system with even well-meaning regulations.”
The HELP Committee passed today the Higher Education Access Reconciliation Act and The Higher Education Amendments of 2007. These bills would change federal rules governing higher education and student loan and grant programs.
“This bill includes some important initiatives to increase access for students and reduce college costs,” Alexander said. “But I hope the Senate will ensure that we have a competitive student loan program. I don’t think even Democrats want to go home to the next Jackson Day Dinner and say they helped create a new national bank for student loans. President Jackson wouldn’t like that very much.”
At Wednesday’s hearing, Alexander again expressed his concerns regarding efforts by Education Secretary Margaret Spellings to encourage further education accountability. But Alexander added he was pleased with the new direction she stated she would take in a recent letter. Alexander said Spellings should encourage higher education agencies to develop federal support for new assessment tools.
“I very much agree with accountability in higher education, and I like the fact that Secretary Spellings now is encouraging states and accrediting agencies to do that,” Alexander said. “I look forward to working with her as she encourages the higher education community to police themselves rather than have Washington, DC, doing it.”
Alexander was instrumental in adding to the Higher Education Reauthorization Act provisions that would require the U.S. Department of Education to:
· Provide early federal student aid estimates to students and their families to help plan for college.
Develop a simplified application for student aid and reduce the complexity of the application process.
Grant year-round Pell grants to students making accelerated progress toward degree completion.
Alexander also worked to insert in the legislation a discretionary grant program for the Teach For America foundation to expand their operations as well as grants to improve measures of assessing student achievement in higher education and to develop a comprehensive website that tracks federal regulations for higher education.
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