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APLU Statement on Senator Harkin’s Introduction of Bill to Reauthorize the Higher Education Act

November 21, 2014

Association of Public and Land-grant Universities (APLU) President Peter McPherson today released the following statement regarding the introduction of the revised Senate majority proposal to reauthorize the Higher Education Act (HEA). Senate HELP Committee Chairman Tom Harkin (D-IA) authored the bill.

“We appreciate Chairman Harkin’s long-standing commitment to help students attend college and earn a degree while also working to assure accountability and transparency in the higher education sector. We are further appreciative of the time and effort that Chairman Harkin and his committee staff spent engaging the higher education community and crafting this comprehensive bill.

“The measure rightly incentivizes states to do their part to provide an affordable education to students at their public institutions. The federal-state partnership of supporting higher education has become too lopsided in recent years with cuts to higher education in many states.

“We applaud the Senate proposal’s inclusion of access to year-round Pell grant funding, which would help some students complete their coursework more quickly. We also appreciate that the bill supports the campus-based aid programs, which are important and critical funding options in the financial aid portfolio.

“We are pleased the Senate bill includes the authorization of a much-needed student unit record system, which would provide a far more accurate picture of educational progress and outcomes than currently available while appropriately safeguarding student privacy. The lack of such data has led to, among other things, a federal graduation rate that is incomplete and severely misleading because it fails to account for part-time and transfer students. While APLU and others have worked to address this problem through the creation of the Student Achievement Measure, this bill would help make such improved progress and completion rates universal while also collecting other important information. Access to quality data is more critical than ever to make informed decisions with scarce resources and this bill enables access to such information with the inclusion of unit record data.

“While we may not see passage of the reauthorization of the Higher Education Act this year, we hope many of this bill’s concepts will be included in reauthorization legislation during the next Congress. We thank Chairman Harkin for his decades of service to the higher education community and look forward to working with incoming HELP Committee Chairman Lamar Alexander and returning House Education and Workforce Committee Chairman John Kline as the HEA reauthorization moves forward.”

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