This vote was on final passage of Republican legislation that would overturn federal standards for colleges and universities that qualify for federal student aid.
The standards targeted by the bill were developed by the U.S. Department of Education in an attempt to ensure college and universities that receive federal student aid meet minimum standards for the integrity of their programs. The regulations set a minimum standard for the work required to earn a “credit hour.” They also required that schools receiving federal aid must be legally authorized by the states in which they operate.
The standards were meant to protect federal student aid programs from waste, fraud, and abuse, but Republicans argued that they represented an overreach by the federal government. By overturning the standards, the bill would keep the federal government from meddling in issues best handled by local and state officials, they said.
“Helping more students realize the dream of an affordable higher education is a shared goal. However, solving a problem like rising college costs starts with recognizing that, as is so often the case, Washington is part of the problem,” Rep. John Kline (R-MN) said. “In order to best prepare today's students to join tomorrow's workforce, we must not overwhelm schools with poorly conceived regulations that lead to wasted time and money.”
Democrats argued that the bill would remove important protections for taxpayers and students. The Department of Education has a responsibility to ensure that federal student aid dollars are being used to support quality higher education, not to fill the coffers of institutions that game the system or provide substandard programs, they said.
“In this tough budget environment, we should be concerned with how the federal government spends the limited resources we dedicate to federal student aid,” Rep. George Miller (D-CA) said. “The bill before us today explicitly increases the risk of fraud, waste, and abuse in our federal student aid programs. At a time when the higher education market is in so much flux, with new kinds of programs popping up around the country and online, this is the wrong time to open this loophole against the taxpayers' best interest.”
The bill was passed by a vote of 303-114. Voting “yea” were 234 Republicans and 69 Democrats. Voting “nay” were 114 Democrats, including a majority of progressives. As a result, the House approved legislation that would overturn federal standards for colleges and universities that qualify for federal student aid. However, to become law, the bill would also have to be approved by the Senate and signed by the president. The White House has voiced strong opposition to the bill, and Bloomberg News reported after the bill’s passage that its prospects were “dim” in the Senate.