Earlier this month, the House Education and Workforce Committee proceeded with a full committee markup of three bills that are just part of the House’s piecemeal approach to reauthorizing the Higher Education Act (HEA). The bills up for consideration included HR 3136, Advancing Competency-Based Education Demonstration Act of 2014; HR 4984, Empowering Students through Enhanced Financial Counseling Act; and HR 4983, Strengthening Transparency in Higher Education Act. All three passed the committee on a voice vote, with bipartisan support. Despite the bipartisan effort, Democrats urged that the bills don’t do enough to tackle the issue of college tuition and student loan debt. The Democrats offered one amendment to each act, all of which were rejected by the committee’s Republican majority.
The first bill (HR 3136), originally introduced by Rep. Matt Salmon (R-AZ) and later adopted by the Republican HEA reauthorization effort, would make federal financial aid available to students enrolled in competency-based education programs—or programs that measure student learning rather than credit hours. The bill boosts competency-based programs, which are praised for saving students both time and money. Rep. John Tierny (D-MA) presented an amendment that would allow student borrowers to refinance their debt at the current, lower interest rate that is available to people with loans on cars and houses. The amendment, which would be funded by a tax hike on wealthy individuals, was ruled nongermane by Chairman John Kline (R-MN). The Democrats’ attempt to appeal the ruling was tabled by a majority vote.
The second bill considered (HR 4983) would replace the US Department of Education’s (ED) existing College Navigator website with a streamlined version, called the College Dashboard website. College Dashboard would promote transparency by sharing information regarding estimated college costs, loan options, and repayment plans with students and their families. Rep. George Miller (D-CA) proposed an amendment that would require ED to collect and report information on institutions’ dropout rates and loan-repayment rates, and the employment rates of their recent graduates. Chairman Kline charged that the amendment would collect the same information proposed by the Obama administration’s gainful-employment regulation. The amendment was defeated by a majority of 21 nays.
The final bill (HR 4984) would increase the counseling requirements and information provided to students and families who receive who federal financial aid. It would also require the secretary of education to develop and distribute an online financial counseling tool for use by higher education institutions. Reps. Mark Takano (D-CA) and Susan Davis (D-CA) proposed an amendment intended to protect service members from being maliciously targeted by some for-profit colleges. Kline rejected the amendment as nongermane and emphasized the importance of for-profit colleges for some students, especially those serving overseas. The Democrats’ attempt to appeal the ruling was tabled by a majority vote.
Stay posted for the committee’s next series of bills. In the meantime, look for these bills to move to the House floor for a vote. The Chairman has expressed his hope that the bills will move quickly, though it is unlikely that anything will happen before the August recess (beginning August 1).
Safeguarding data is a critical component of effective education data use—and a key priority of a growing number of state education agencies (SEAs). SEAs are embarking on a journey through their technical, legal, communications, personnel, and programmatic processes to ensure their data are safeguarded and transparently governed while providing valuable information to everyone with a stake in education.
Each of these areas is critical for effective data use:
Transparency around data decisionmaking, the uses of education data, and privacy protections builds understanding and trust in the value of education data.
Governance establishes clear and consistent rules to guide those responsible for making decisions about how data are used.
Data protection procedures like data encryption, staff trainings, risk assessments, and data retention and destruction policies codify and help implement the practices that safeguard the privacy and security of data.
Following this roadmap, SEAs can work to review and improve their privacy and security policies and processes, implement and strengthen their data governance bodies, and communicate clearly with the public about how education data are used and safeguarded.