Four members of the U.S. Senate’s education committee announced Monday  that they were forming a bipartisan task force to examine the impact of federal regulations on colleges and universities. Senators Lamar Alexander and Richard Burr, both Republicans, and Senators Barbara Mikulski and Michael Bennett, both Democrats, said that they were concerned some regulations were overly burdensome for institutions of higher education. The task force “will conduct a compressive review of federal regulations and reporting requirements affecting colleges and universities and make recommendations to reduce and streamline regulations, while protecting students, institutions and taxpayers,” the senators said in a statement.
Nicholas Zeppos, the chancellor of Vanderbilt University, and William Kirwan, the chancellor of the University System of Maryland, will co-chair the task force, which is to include 14 college and university presidents and higher education experts. Colleges have long complained that they are unduly burdened by an array of legislative and regulatory obligations that are often confusing and unevenly enforced by the Education Department. That argument has routinely been made by the American Council on Education, the umbrella group for higher education lobbying groups, which will provide “organizational assistance” for the task force.
Lawmakers are currently gearing up to reauthorize the Higher Education Act, which expires at the end of this year. The chair of the Senate education committee, Tom Harkin, an Iowa Democrat, has said he wants to have a draft of the legislation by early this year after the committee completes a series of 12 hearings on various higher education issues. Alexander, the panel’s senior Republican, has said he wants to “start from scratch” in rewriting the Higher Education Act so as to eliminate burdensome requirements.