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Education & Labor Committee Republicans

Contact: Press Office (202) 226-9440
Kline Statement: Markup of H.R. 2637, the Supporting Academic Freedom through Regulatory Relief Act

Our nation is still struggling with a slow economic recovery. Job openings are scarce, and as a result, competition for available positions is extremely tough. Many Americans are eager for opportunities to gain new skills that will help their resume stand out among hundreds of job applications.

Higher education institutions, including career schools, community colleges, and traditional colleges and universities, offer a wide variety of students the chance to gain the skills and education necessary to succeed in the workforce. These institutions are constantly working to strengthen ties with area business leaders, update curricula, and develop new programs that align with the needs of the local economy in hopes of giving students the best chance for success.

However, in recent years postsecondary institutions – and career colleges in particular – have been unfairly targeted by punitive federal mandates that drag down the entire higher education system in the name of weeding out a few bad actors.

In 2010 and 2011 the Department of Education released several regulations they claimed would improve student financial aid programs. A number of these so-called “program integrity” regulations – including the gainful employment, state authorization, and federal credit hour regulations – have serious consequences that could reduce students’ options, raise costs, and increase bureaucratic red tape for states and higher education institutions nationwide.

The credit hour regulation, for example, would limit students’ participation in prior learning assessments and restrict schools’ ability to implement competency-based programs – two valuable initiatives designed to help students save money and graduate in less time. The state authorization regulation, which sets federal requirements states must follow to grant colleges and universities permission to operate, dramatically infringes upon states’ right to regulate their own higher education institutions.

Of course, the most egregious regulation is one we have discussed on numerous occasions in this committee: the gainful employment rule. Among its provisions, this ill-conceived mandate imposed unprecedented requirements around loan repayment and debt-to-income calculations predominately on career schools. The regulation also required schools to seek preapproval from the Department of Education before creating any new program – tying down in bureaucratic red tape the flexibility that has benefited communities and workers. 

The Supporting Academic Freedom through Regulatory Relief Act will put a stop to all three of these regulations, while also ensuring the Department of Education cannot continue to regulate on these matters until after Congress reauthorizes the Higher Education Act.

Repealing these mandates is not a partisan issue. In fact, the House approved – with strong bipartisan support – two proposals in the 112th Congress that would eliminate the credit hour and state authorization regulations and prohibit implementation of the gainful employment regulation. Even the federal courts have weighed in, acting on separate occasions to strike down portions of the state authorization and gainful employment regulations.

To best prepare today’s students to join tomorrow’s workforce and promote continued ingenuity in higher education, the federal government must not overwhelm colleges with poorly conceived regulations that waste time and money. The Supporting Academic Freedom through Regulatory Relief Act will take these punitive federal mandates off the table and protect higher education institutions from unnecessary financial and regulatory burdens that could limit their ability to offer innovative programs and training to American students. 

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