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Senator Lamar Alexander, the Tennessee Republican who chairs the Senate education committee, said Tuesday that work drafting a reauthorization of the Higher Education Act would begin "within the next few weeks."

Alexander made the comments at a hearing on accountability in the higher education system. That prediction fits an optimistic timeline from the senator that would have the committee mark up legislation by April. 

But many who have followed the process of crafting an update to the law governing colleges and universities are skeptical that the Senate would move on a bill that fast -- if it passes a reauthorization this year at all. A Democratic committee aide said the Democrats want to get an HEA reauthorization done as quickly as possible. But, the aide added, “given that the complex policy negotiations haven’t even begun yet and it took almost a year to negotiate the last bipartisan education bill, it’s hard to imagine that a comprehensive bipartisan reauthorization of the Higher Education Act can be completed thoughtfully and well in ‘the next few weeks.’”