Federal Policy and Legislation

Higher Education Act

The Higher Education Act (HEA) authorizes many federal student financial aid programs and competitive grants to support innovation in higher education, reporting requirements for institutions, and much more. The current statute was signed into law in August 2008 and included substantive changes impacting educator preparation. The authorization of HEA has now expired, and its reauthorization is currently expected in the 115th Congress, which begins in January 2017.

While no piece of legislation is perfect, the 2008 reauthorization of HEA, particularly Title II, represented a significant step forward for the educator preparation profession. Its emphasis on strengthening the clinical components of preparation programs, on ensuring that all candidates are prepared to teach students with special needs and English language learners, and on increasing faculty capacity in high-need areas was the right focus for this bill. Congress clearly listened to AACTE members as they talked about what constitutes a strong preparation program.

Both the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate have held hearings in the 114th Congress exploring key components of HEA including access to federal student financial aid, campus safety, and accreditation. While little at this point has been expressed about Title II, where the focus is on educator preparation, AACTE along with other higher education and PK-12 associations supports the Educator Preparation Reform Act (EPRA), which reauthorizes Title II. EPRA includes expanding the Teacher Quality Partnership grants to reach principals and other school personnel, streamlines Title II data collection, deepens the incentive for states to identify low-performing teacher preparation programs, and makes key changes to the TEACH grant program.

AACTE is engaging with Congress as members prepare to reauthorize HEA next year.

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