House plans 5 hearings on Higher Education Act reauthorization

The U.S. House of Representatives' Education and Labor Committee will begin discussing a potential reauthorization of the Higher Education Act (HEA), which is now years overdue. Rep. Bobby Scott, D-Va., the committee chairman, and Rep. Virginia Foxx, R-N.C., a ranking member, announced the committee will host five bipartisan hearings on topics such as college costs, accountability, retention, equity and the role of community colleges and minority-serving institutions in upward mobility.Both members expressed a willingness to work together to find solutions to a wide range of issues in higher education. Some observers predict Congress will be able to pass a rewrite of the HEA this year because leaders from both the House and the Senate have voiced it will be a priority. Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., chairman of the Senate education committee, has indicated he would like to pass legislation before the end of the year. And many believe his decision to retire at the end of his current term could prompt him to push harder for a rewrite. Likewise, Scott told reporters in January that it would be a "great accomplishment" if lawmakers could pass a rewrite this year. To be sure, lawmakers from both parties agree they should tackle issues such as accountability, student-loan defaults and rising tuition prices. However, their solutions to such problems can be at odds, leading some to cast doubt that a divided Congress could compromise on a rewrite.

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