Federal government could have a say in U admissions

By and

With the renewal of the Higher Education Reauthorization Act passing through the halls of the U.S. Senate on Sept. 29, the federal government may now have the power to be more active than ever when it comes to college admissions policies.

Though this could come as a surprise to many students, the Utah State Board of Regents was briefed on what the federal government’s role in higher education could be in the state and nationally at their Oct. 31 meeting at Utah Valley State College.

“Who gets admitted to higher education is one of the fundamental freedoms of institutions and for the first time, we could see the federal government regulating those policies,” said American Council on Education vice president Terry Hartle.

In addition to the potential regulation of early admissions requirements, the HERA could also affect the way transfer credits are accepted from one school to another.

Under the act, colleges and universities would not be allowed to reject transfer students only because those students first attended nationally accredited agencies rather than regional groups, according to the ACE.

“This bill is not simply about who gets student aid…The implications of this reauthorization are more serious and profound than most debates going on in Washington,” Hartle said.

That has some in the state concerned.

“Currently, we have well set-up articulation between the nine public colleges and universities in the state…They each set up their own admissions standards and it works well. We have enough regulation and control through the Board of Regents and we don’t want more people involved in that process,” according to Utah System of Higher Education Associate Commissioner of Academic Affairs Deanna Winn.

ACE president David Ward shared Winn’s concern over the invasiveness of parts of the act.

“While we had expected that the bill would address this issue of credit transfer, we are quite surprised at the intrusiveness and complexity of the exact provisions,” he said in a written statement.

Three of the six bills that comprise the HERA have already been signed into law, but it’s the remaining three that pose the biggest concerns to lawmakers and lobbyists, Hartle said.

Those bills include the Expanding Opportunities in Higher Education Act, the Affordability in Higher Education Act and a final bill that deals with accountability and student financial aid.

“The affordability bill has gotten most of the attention, but Utah’s tuition and entrance fees are low enough that the state would probably be exempt from penalties,” Hartle said.

According to Winn, some of the proposals included in the HERA have come as a result of outside pressures on the federal government to change current higher education policies.

“My understanding is that they’re getting a lot of pressure from private institutions that want to be players in the game,” Winn said.

U Vice President of Academic Affairs Barbara Snyder said any attempts to limit an institution’s freedoms would not be welcome by administrators.

“We would clearly be opposed to federal intervention in the admissions process…it’s not their purview and they should not be involved in it. The federal government has no business being involved and I can’t imagine us being supportive of them in this case,” Snyder said.

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