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Committee Statements

Kline Statement: Markup of H.R. 2117, the Protecting Academic Freedom in Higher Education Act

Good morning, and welcome to the committee’s markup of H.R. 2117. H.R. 2117 was introduced earlier this month by the Chairwoman of the Subcommittee on Higher Education and Workforce Training, Dr. Foxx, and I commend her for her work on this legislation.

This bill marks a continuation of the committee’s efforts to simplify, and target, the federal government’s role in our education system. Since the beginning of this Congress, we have held several hearings to examine how federal mandates and regulations affect schools and institutions of higher education.  Throughout those hearings, administrators and school officials have highlighted poorly conceived regulations that lead to wasted time and wasted money, ultimately penalizing students.

During this time of economic uncertainty and high unemployment, it is more important than ever to make sure the federal government does not stand in the way of Americans who wish to continue their education and gain the skills necessary for a more prosperous future.

As I’ve said many times before, education is a jobs issue. We know workers who obtain a college degree or higher are much less likely to face unemployment. The current unemployment rate for individuals with a postsecondary degree is only 4.5 percent, much lower than the 9.1 percent national average. Additionally, individuals who advance in their education earn markedly higher salaries. For example, in 2009, college graduates earned on average roughly $40,000 more than a high school dropout. 

Clearly, a strong higher education system is critical to preparing American graduates for an increasingly competitive workforce. However, recent regulatory initiatives by the Department of Education will place unnecessary and excessive strain on colleges and universities. 

Two regulations proposed last October are particularly troublesome – threatening to needlessly inject the federal government into what has traditionally been the jurisdiction of states and postsecondary institutions. Dr. Foxx’s legislation would repeal these unnecessary and burdensome regulations, protecting academic institutions and prospective students from significant financial and bureaucratic burdens.

Over the years, the nation’s higher education system has become increasingly complex with layers of new rules and programs. Before adding additional layers of regulations, we must carefully review the benefits and costs. In the case of the credit hour regulation and the state authorization regulation, the costs to students and higher education as a whole far outweigh any potential benefits. 

Although Washington has a responsibility to protect taxpayers and students from fraud and abuse in the higher education system, we must be cautious of federal regulations and policies that could create new hurdles for administrators, professors, and students. 

In order to best prepare today’s students to join tomorrow’s workforce, we must ensure we are not overwhelming schools with unnecessary regulations. Too much federal overreach into postsecondary education will undoubtedly lead to higher costs and reduced access to education opportunities for millions of students. In turn, this will undercut our efforts to build a stronger, more competitive economy. 

The House Education and the Workforce Committee has the unique opportunity to advance policies that affect achievement in the nation’s classrooms and in the nation’s workplaces. H.R. 2117 will help improve both by protecting student choice and access to invaluable higher education opportunities.  I encourage my colleagues to join me in supporting this legislation, and I look forward to a robust discussion on the issue. 


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