Published: Dec. 20, 2017

This month, congressional efforts to reauthorize and reform the Higher Education Act—a 1965 federal law that governs financial aid programs, competitive grants and more—kicked into high gear.

On Dec. 12, the House Education and Workforce Committee approved its version of the legislation, the Promoting Real Opportunity, Success and Prosperity through Education Reform (PROSPER) Act, on a party-line vote of 23 to 17.

Republicans have emphasized the need to overhaul the legislation, which is several years overdue, while Democrats have expressed concerns about rushing the markup of the bill without adequate time for input from students and universities. Overarching concerns for both sides center on college costs.

During the process, Rep. Jared Polis (D-CO), who serves on the committee, introduced a handful of amendments involving credit sharing between community colleges and four-year universities, competency-based education, open textbooks and more. Polis, who also convened several conversations with CU administrators and students in advance of the committee vote, highlighted CU Boulder’s tuition guarantee and Be Boulder Pact as a successful model.

He said: "The University of Colorado Boulder recently established its Be Boulder Pact, which is a commitment to reduce cost, increase transparency and create predictability for students about the cost of their degree over time. Part of that is a four-year tuition guarantee, so students don't have to worry about costs changing and they can plan for their tuition. That kind of step represents the kind of thing that we should be doing to reduce costs, but unfortunately this bill would work against initiatives like the Be Boulder Pact and similar efforts at many other universities."

During the proceedings, it’s been clear that quick feedback from CU Boulder and the higher education community was heard, carried forward and effectively factored into the committee’s debate about the bill. However, more work will be necessary to improve the legislation for our community.

The full House is not expected to vote on the PROSPER Act until next year. At the same time, the Senate's education panel, which Sen. Michael Bennet (D-CO) serves on, is expected to begin hearings to inform its own rewrite of the bill early in the new year. CU will continue to work with Colorado’s congressional delegation to improve the legislation, so that a final bill provides the best outcome possible for Colorado students.