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Kline, Foxx Take Aim at Obama’s Push on Higher Ed

February 13, 2014

Two key Republicans on the House education committee on Wednesday criticized the Obama administration for its recent executive actions on higher education, and for President Obama's promises of more.

Representatives John Kline and Virginia Foxx said in a statement and in a letter to the president that the administration’s recent actions on higher education were obstructing legislative progress on the reauthorization of the Higher Education Act.

Kline is the chair of the House education committee and Foxx chairs the higher education subcommittee.

Obama has pledged to “take executive actions where Congress won’t” act on a range of domestic policy issues, including higher education.

“We are disappointed the administration would threaten to subvert Congress on higher education policy, especially considering the fact that the Department of Education has failed to release a comprehensive proposal to reauthorize the Higher Education Act,” the pair wrote. “Instead, the department continues to propose prescriptive, one-size-fits-all policies that not only ignore the realities of our nation’s diverse higher education systems, but are also strongly opposed by many higher education stakeholders.”

An Education Department spokeswoman said Wednesday that the department was in the process of producing Higher Education Act proposals. In previous speeches and State of the Union addresses, Obama has called for a number of changes to Higher Education Act, including an overhaul of the accreditation process and tying colleges’ receipt of federal aid to affordability and value metrics.

Both the House and Senate education committees are currently holding a series of hearings about renewing the higher education law. Neither committee has produced a draft of legislation. The chair of the Senate education committee, Tom Harkin, a Democrat, has said he wants to produce a bill by the end of the spring.

The letter from Kline and Foxx also praises the administration for its summit last month, in which it won a range of commitments from colleges to help low-income students attend and complete college. But it also questions “the steps the administration took to ensure the attendees represented all sectors of the higher education community.”

The event featured leaders from private and public four-year institutions, including several community colleges, but for-profit colleges were not represented. Kline and Foxx have been vocal in their support of the for-profit education sector and have sought to block the administration’s regulatory crackdown on the industry through its “gainful employment” employment rules. The latest rounds of those regulations are awaiting approval from the White House’s Office of Management and Budget. 

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Michael Stratford

Michael Stratford, Reporter, covers federal policy for Inside Higher Ed. He joined the publication in August 2013 after a stint covering the Arkansas state legislature for The Associated Press. He previously worked and interned at Kiplinger’s Personal Finance magazine and The Chronicle of Higher Education. At The Chronicle, he wrote about federal policy and covered higher education issues in the 2012 elections. Michael grew up in Belmont, Mass. and graduated from Cornell University, where he was managing editor of The Cornell Daily Sun.

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