A bipartisan group of senators, who are members of the Senate Health Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, tout a new report detailing ways Congress and the Education Dept. can streamline and reduce federal regulations for America’s 6,000 colleges and universities, while protecting students and taxpayers.
In November 2013, HELP Chairman Lamar Alexander (R-TN), along with fellow Sens. Barbara Mikulski (D-MD), Richard Burr (R-NC), and Michael Bennet (D-CO), formed the Task Force on Government Regulation of Higher Education. The task force, comprised of 16 college and university presidents and higher education experts, was tasked to offer recommendations on improving the nation’s higher education system from a regulatory perspective, as Congress continue to work on the ninth reauthorization of the Higher Education Act.
The task force conducted a comprehensive, nonpartisan review of ED’s higher education regulatory and reporting requirements on colleges and universities. The resulting report, Recalibrating Regulation of Colleges and Universities, provides specific recommendations on reducing, eliminating or streamlining duplicative, costly or confusing regulations and reporting requirements. “Regulations serve an important role in ensuring institutional accountability,” the task force wrote in the report’s executive summary. “Requirements that have an excessive reach, or that are unnecessarily costly and difficult to implement—or worse still, that hinder student access to college and drive costs up—are counterproductive.”
A wealth of duplicative, burdensome regulations uncovered
The task force identified a number of problematic rules and regulations. As described in Section II of the report, the task force concluded that many rules are unnecessarily voluminous and too often ambiguous, and that the cost of compliance has become unreasonable. Moreover, many regulations are unrelated to education, student safety or stewardship of federal funds—and others can be a barrier to college access and innovation in education, the task force members found.
Additionally, Section III of the report highlights 10 specific regulations of concern, which include those focusing on student eligibility for student aid, institutional accreditation and consumer information.
Report receives bipartisan praise
The bipartisan group of senators are quick to point out that the report will be extremely useful in preparing a HEA rewrite. “The stack of federal regulations on colleges and universities today, which stretches as tall as I am, is simply the piling up of well-intentioned laws and regulations, done without anyone first weeding the garden,” said Alexander. “This report will guide our efforts to weed the garden and allow colleges to spend more of their time and money educating students, instead of filling out mountains of paperwork.”
Mikulski, who also is the ranking member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, concurs with Alexander, saying she has heard many concerns from colleges and universities regarding federal requirements that, while well-intentioned, often end up being duplicative and burdensome. She agrees the goal of the HEA reauthorization should be to properly regulate, not strangulate.