Opportunity Nation Working Group Highlights: The Future of the Higher Education Act Reauthorization & Next Steps

by Juanita Tolliver   •  

With conversations on Capitol Hill and in the Administration about the reauthorization of the Higher Education Act bubbling up, our Postsecondary Education & Training Working Group convened for an in-depth discussion about the reauthorization process. We received a state of play update from Danica Petroshius and Aissa Canchola of Penn Hill Group, outlined shared policy priorities of some of our Coalition organizations and discussed how this work aligns with our shared goal of doubling the number of postsecondary degrees, certifications and industry credentials by 2025. A few of the highlights from the conversation include the following:

Congresswoman Virginia Foxx (R-NC), Chairwoman of the House Education & the Workforce Committee, announced last week that she is preparing to unveil her comprehensive bill for the Higher Education Act this fall. Foxx’s focus on “comprehensive reform” is a clue that the previous efforts to move smaller measures with bipartisan support will not be a priority and that she is focused on overhauling the legislation entirely with her big-picture approach.

Conversely, the Senate is not quite ready to work on the Higher Education Act – given other legislative priorities related to the budget, tax reform, health care, DACA, etc. – and is instead working to collect ideas for big-ticket items to include in the Higher Education Act.

With this in mind, the working group shared a few key policy ideas, some of which are included in Our Opportunity Nation, that many organizations have been prioritizing and that will likely be featured in the bill, including:

  • Data Reform & Transparency: Institutions of higher education should be required to disseminate additional data in an easy-to-understand format so that prospective students and families have all the information needed to make the right decision. For more information about data reform and increased transparency, check out Young Invincibles’ Agenda for Postsecondary Data Reform.
  • Expanding Pell Grant Eligibility & Stackable Credentials: Pell eligibility should be expanded to include short job-training programs and certification opportunities, enabling today’s college students to pursue more postsecondary pathways that prepare them to enter the workforce. Recently, working group members National College Access Network, Jobs for the Future and the National Skills Coalition weighed in on the benefits and concerns surrounding this issue in Inside Higher Ed.
  • Federal Financial Aid Simplification: There are numerous federal student aid and loan packages, each with different rules and eligibility requirements, and the federal financial aid application process must be simplified for students. Even the current Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) includes more than 108 questions. Check out the National College Access Network’s plan to streamline FAFSA.

As a next step, our working group members are preparing to identify and engage new champions on the Hill, and continue discussions about the aforementioned policy priorities.

Check out how you can join our efforts:

  • Interested in discussing the merits and concerns related to Stackable Credentials, program qualifications and evaluation? Contact Erica Cuevas ( and Carrie Warick ( to continue the discussion.
  • Join the Reconnecting Youth Campaign for a convening and Hill Day on Wednesday, September 27, to discuss efforts to promote appropriations for Opportunity Youth programs in both FY18 and FY19 and to engage appropriators on the Hill. To RSVP, contact Ilana Levinson (
  • Join NCAN for “Moving the Needle on FAFSA Completion,” a discussion about the impact of the policy changes to the FAFSA, on Wednesday, October 4. Click here for more information, and contact Carrie Warick ( to RSVP.
  • Join our Postsecondary Education & Training working group and share information about your organization’s Higher Education Act policy priorities. Contact Juanita Tolliver ( to sign up today!
Juanita Tolliver Juanita leads the strategic expansion, engagement and mobilization of Opportunity Nation’s Coalition in a collective advocacy effort driving policy change and impact at the local, state and federal levels as Opportunity Nation’s Coalition & Advocacy Manager. Her full bio can be found here.

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