Short Title

Back to the Future: What Previous HEA Reauthorizations Might Say About the Next One


For 50 years, the Higher Education Act has been the primary vehicle for advancing federal higher education policy. Many policymakers and interested observers expect its upcoming reauthorization to address three overarching topic areas: college affordability, institutional quality, and student safety. Indeed, previous reauthorizations have addressed specific issues within each of these areas—expanded financial aid availability and process simplification, third-party (accreditors and states) oversight of institutions, and assurances that students have safe learning environments. Yet we cannot say that these are settled issues. This article describes previously implemented policies in the hope that a better understanding of the past might help policymakers craft policies that further advance the primary goal of the HEA: widespread access to quality postsecondary education opportunities.