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DeVos on GOP's Higher Education Act Rewrite

December 15, 2017

Education Secretary Betsy DeVos said Thursday that she viewed the U.S. House of Representatives' update to the Higher Education Act as "conceptually, a starting point," although she declined to address specific provisions and said she hadn't had an opportunity to look at the details of the bill.

House Republicans advanced the bill out of committee late Tuesday night on a party-line vote just over a week after introducing the legislation. The bill alters the student financial aid landscape, creating one federal grant and loan and making repayment options less generous. It also would eliminate regulations aimed at the for-profit college sector while imposing some new performance requirements for higher ed institutions to receive federal support.

As Congress considers reauthorization of the Higher Education Act, DeVos said, "the bigger question is what is the role of the federal government in the 21st century in supporting education beyond high school."

DeVos spoke to reporters Thursday after a Rethink Higher Ed Summit hosted by the U.S. Department of Education. Participants in a roundtable discussion about innovation told DeVos that the federal government should reform the role of accreditors to allow for new program offerings and demand more "skin in the game" from institutions with a risk-sharing program involving federal aid, among other recommendations.

Those participants were drawn from a range of traditional public universities, online and for-profit institutions, foundations, and private companies working in higher ed.

Kathleen Plinske, president of the Osceola and Lake Nona campuses of Valencia College, a Florida community college, told the summit's attendees that the federal student aid system should be simplified to better meet the needs of low-income students. She said students who are frequently tripped up by the application process for the Free Application for Federal Student Aid are typically the same students who have already demonstrated need through federal programs like SNAP and TANF.

DeVos, though, declined to discuss with reporters whether the department would take a harder look at any of the ideas discussed at the summit.

"I’d prefer to have the opportunity to digest and then come out with a framework of principles I’d like to talk about as a way to advance the conversation around support for higher ed," she said.

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Andrew Kreighbaum

Andrew Kreighbaum joins Inside Higher Ed as our federal policy reporter. Andrew comes to us from The Investigative Reporting Workshop. He received his master's in data journalism at the University of Missouri, and has interned at USA Today and a national journalism institute in Columbia, MO. Before getting his master's, Andrew spent three years covering government and education at local papers in El Paso, McAllen and Laredo, Texas. He graduated in 2010 from the University of Texas at Austin, where he majored in history and was news editor at The Daily Texan.

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