A major priority for the Education and the Workforce Committee in the 115th Congress will be reauthorizing the Higher Education Act (HEA), the primary federal legislation for post-secondary education programs. Among our goals are simplifying federal student aid programs, giving students and parent’s better information to make informed decisions, promoting access and accountability, and reducing the regulatory burden on schools. According to a study on federal regulatory compliance costs produced by Vanderbilt University, institutions of higher education spend an estimated $11.1 billion annually on higher education-specific regulations. When considering the implications for students on their campus, Vanderbilt found that the total cost of compliance resulted in a per-student cost of over $11,000. The reauthorization of HEA provides an opportunity to review and streamline regulations, ensuring they do not become prohibitive. By focusing on essential regulations, institutions will be permitted the flexibility needed to serve students and address the rising costs associated with higher education.
Free Speech on College Campuses
For years, college campuses have stood as a beacon to the ideal of free speech guaranteed through the First Amendment of our nation’s Constitution. Having served in the Vietnam era, I saw first-hand how colleges and universities served as hotbeds for free speech and debate – some with which I did not agree. But, as a veteran myself, I fought to protect and defend this right to free speech, and as a country, we were better served by allowing both sides to passionately express their views.
Recently, however, free speech has come under attack at institutions that were once conduits for this debate. College students have been challenged for expressing political beliefs; differences of opinion have been censored; speakers have been shouted down; and so-called ‘free speech’ zones have been created to keep students from expressing their thoughts outside of restricted areas.
Believing the rights protected by the First Amendment transcend political ideologies, I introduced H. Res. 307, a resolution that expresses the sense of the House of Representatives that free speech zones are inherently at odds with the First Amendment and that urges institutions of higher education to defend and protect the open exchange of ideas. We must support the open exchange of conservative and liberal ideals and a diverse set of viewpoints between the two. If our colleges and universities protect and foster the free and open exchange of ideas, our society will be better off as a result.
With a rapidly changing global economy, it is essential that American workers have the skills and training necessary to succeed. Congress took a significant step to help workers when it passed the Workforce Innovation and Investment Act (WIOA), originally named The SKILLS Act, in the 113th Congress. This important law consolidates ineffective programs, cuts bureaucracy, and provides more flexible job training services. For the 115th Congress, I am a cosponsor for H.R. 2353, the Strengthening Career and Technical Education for the 21st Century Act, which reauthorizes the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act. This important legislation, which helps ensure technical education is focused on meeting the needs of local communities and local employers, passed the House and is currently in the Senate awaiting consideration. I hope we will continue working to improve CTE and ensure we have enough skilled Americans to fill our economy’s future employment needs.
Jobs & the Economy
As a member of the Education and the Workforce Committee, I have joined with my colleagues to advance legislation that will strengthen our education system, improve workforce training opportunities, and protect workers’ rights. This entails encouraging innovation in Career and Technical Education and reducing the regulatory burden on students, small business owners, and working families. We must move forward in all of these areas to keep the American economy competitive in the 21st Century.