Overturning Accountability and Integrity Measures in Higher Education Programs: Facts on H.R. 2117

Feb 24, 2012 Issues: Education, Higher Education

The Department of Education oversees the disbursement of nearly $200 billion in student aid to more than 15 million students to make their college education more affordable. The Secretary of Education relies on specific tools to ensure these federal student aid funds are properly used. The Department of Education’s Inspector General has identified loopholes that allow schools to “game the system,” such as manipulating credit hours in order to receive more federal aid funds. Regrettably, H.R. 2117 would overturn the Department’s efforts to prevent such gaming and other efforts to ensure that students and taxpayers receive a quality education for their investment.

H.R. 2117 repeals efforts to protect students’ and taxpayers’ investment in higher education. This bill:

  • Overturns minimum standards for the purposes of awarding federal student aid. The credit hour is the basic unit underlying the distribution of federal student aid. Lack of minimum standards only invites greater risk of fraud.
  • Takes away the ability of the Secretary of Education to ever define a credit hour. This bill permanently frustrates the federal government’s ability to demand accountability on behalf of students and taxpayers.
  • Overturns the requirement that states specifically authorize higher education institutions in the states where they operate. This bill sends the message that taxpayers are okay with providing billions of dollars of federal student aid to colleges and universities that are not in compliance with state laws.
  • Overturns the requirement that states have a process in place for handling student complaints. If students feel they have been wronged or been taken advantage of, they will not have a place to have their complaints addressed if the state chooses not to have one.

The Department’s fraud protections do not intrude on academic freedom.

  • Colleges and universities have the freedom to set whatever higher standards for their academic requirements that they see fit, in concert with their accreditors.

Instead of overturning efforts to protect students’ and taxpayers’ investments in higher education, Congress should be working to prevent the doubling of interest rates for some student loans.

  • In July, interest rates for need-based undergraduate student loans will double from 3.4 percent to 6.8 percent.
  • If Congress fails to act now, more than 7 million students will face approximately $2,800 in higher loan repayment costs.