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UPDATED: H.R. 2117, the Protecting Academic Freedom in Higher Education Act


Over the last decade, college costs have skyrocketed. Last year, tuition and fees at public four-year colleges and universities increased 8.3 percent, even as inflation only rose by approximately three percent. The average four-year public college student now graduates with roughly $22,000 in debt.

Despite the Obama Administration’s failed attempts to rein in college costs through a slew of new government programs, mandates, and possible price controls, Republicans know helping students realize the dream of higher education cannot be accomplished solely at the federal level. Instead, we support increased transparency on the true cost of a postsecondary education and are encouraging colleges to assist students and families in make fiscally responsible decisions when choosing the right institution.

Republicans also recognize the need to reduce federal regulations that can lead to higher costs for colleges and students, and are working to reduce the regulatory burden and bolster innovation at the postsecondary level. Two particularly troublesome regulations released by the Department of Education in late 2010 – the credit hour and state authorization regulations – not only put the federal government in the middle of issues that have historically been the responsibility of academic institutions or states, but could also have significant implications on college costs and student choice. 
  • The credit hour regulation establishes a federal definition of a credit hour. This attempt to measure student learning at the federal level will restrict innovation, limit flexibility, and obstruct innovative teaching methods that could help students save money by graduating early. 
  • The state authorization regulation forces states to follow federal requirements when deciding whether to grant a college or university permission to operate within the state. This one-size-fits-all requirement piles unnecessary costs on states, colleges, and students, and could pave the way for future overreach into higher education.


In an effort to prevent federal intrusion in academic affairs, protect student choice in higher education, and reduce the regulatory burden on colleges and universities, Subcommittee on Higher Education and Workforce Training Chairwoman Virginia Foxx (R-NC) introduced the Protecting Academic Freedom in Higher Education Act (H.R. 2117). The legislation would permanently repeal the unnecessary credit hour and state authorization regulations. The House Committee on Education and the Workforce approved H.R. 2117 with bipartisan support in a vote of 27 to 11 last June.

  • Prevents unprecedented and unnecessary overreach into postsecondary academic affairs. 
  • Protects innovative methods for awarding credit by repealing the federal definition of a credit hour, and prohibits the Department of Education from defining “credit hour” in the future. 
  • Protects students and their colleges from higher costs by eliminating the unnecessary state authorization regulation.
The Protecting Academic Freedom in Higher Education Act will help streamline the federal role in higher education and protect states, schools, and students from excessive and costly regulatory burdens.

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