Friday, December 5, 2014

A Look Back at the Higher Education Act

December 3rd, 2014

First signed into law by President Lyndon Johnson in 1965 as part of his Great Society campaign, the Higher Education Act’s original purpose was to solidify and expand the federal government’s involvement in higher education policy. Now up for its 10th reauthorization in the coming months (most recently in 2008), it will likely receive much attention from postsecondary pundits as well as trade groups, professional organizations, public policy institutes, and invested colleges and universities.
Fast-forward some nine reauthorizations following the act, much has changed and a catalogue of student aid programs intended to increase college access and choice has emerged. From the TRIO and Pell Grant programs in 1968 and 1972 to the Parent PLUS and unsubsidized Stafford loan programs in 1980 and 1992, congress has repeatedly attempted to simplify student aid and make college for affordable. Though laudable in approach, the Higher Education Act has evolved into an extraordinarily costly and complex conundrum which has puzzled even the most acute observers. Following the 2008 Higher Education Opportunity Act, federal aid authorized under Title IV exceeded $169 billion in the 2012-2013 academic year — a doubling of aid over the previous decade. During the same period, federal loans topped $101 billion (an increase of 86% from the previous decade) and federal grants eclipsed $47 billion (an increase of 134%).

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