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What is the Higher Education Act?

The Higher Education Act (HEA) was first passed in 1965 during the presidential administration of Lyndon Johnson, and it was primarily crafted to establish financial aid for college-bound students. The law also supports the increase in educational resources that are associated with colleges and universities.

Over the years, the act has undergone several reauthorizations that give lawmakers opportunities to add or subtract its provisions according to the changing needs of the nation's students. The next reauthorization was set for 2013, but it was extended to 2015. Here are some of the issues that are associated with the latest reauthorization of the HEA.

College Affordability

As professionals in industry and academia have begun to think strategically from global perspectives, many cannot help but see the obvious differences between the systems of higher education in foreign countries and the United States (U.S.). For example, U.S. undergraduate students can usually participate in comparable educational programs in foreign locations for significantly less than they would pay at domestic schools. In fact, some European countries offer free tuition, and many degree programs are taught in English. Education advocates have made tuition affordability a key topic within the latest HEA reauthorization in answer to this type of global competition within the education industry. The focus of higher education affordability initiatives encourages colleges and universities to find ways to reign in tuition prices and improve education value to students.

Increased Accountability for Federal Funds Received

Many public colleges and universities receive federal funding to strengthen the value of their educational offerings to students, but some of these organizations have come under critical scrutiny for the ways that they use the government funding that they receive. For instance, some schools who have received federal funding recently spent money constructing campus water parks, hot tubs, and rock climbing facilities.

It is not clear whether the schools are directly using their federal funds for these amenities, and that is exactly the point of the issue that the HEA reauthorization is expected to address. Legislators with the help of education advocates are proposing measures that would increase the transparency of the use of federal funds received by colleges and universities. These initiatives are especially important to tax paying parents who receive increasingly high tuition bills while their tax dollars are also spent to support the nation's colleges and universities.

College Accessibility for Low-Income and First Generation Students

One of the ongoing goals of the HEA is to make college and university degree programs accessible to all citizens, and this goal especially includes students from low-income families. According to statistics given by the Education and the Workforce Committee, the government spends over $1 billion on initiatives to help increase accessibility of college educational programs to low-income students, and these initiatives often extend to students who are the first in their families to attend college. In order to maximize the nation's educational investments, governmental education agencies seek to identify which services and programs provide the biggest impact on these two groups.


Most people who have considered attending a college or university in the U.S. realize that the higher education system is in need of an overhaul. The latest Higher Education Act reauthorization is an opportunity to guide much-needed reforms associated with higher education quality and affordability.

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