As the federal law that governs most of higher education, the Higher Education Act (HEA) reauthorization process is an important legislative avenue to promote the use of OER at higher education institutions. HEA reauthorization is mandated every five years, although recent practice has led to lengthier periods. The last reauthorization was in 2008.
SPARC is actively working with allies in the Senate HELP Committee and the House Education and Labor Committee to advocate for including the Affordable College Textbook Act and amendments to current textbook price disclosure requirements in Sec. 133 of HEA.
In October 2019, House Democrats released the College Affordability Act (CAA), a proposal based largely on Aim Higher from the 115th Congress. The language includes authorizing language for a federal open textbook grant program similar to the Open Textbook Pilot, and the bill also includes some language that SPARC has opposed amending existing statute to promote “inclusive access” and subscription models. While it is currently likely that CAA will come to a vote in the full House before the end of 2019, the probability of action in the Senate before the 2020 election continues to narrow.
In December 2017, House Republicans unveiled the PROSPER Act to reauthorize the Higher Education Act (HEA). The bill passed the House Education and Workforce Committee on a party-line vote, but did not garner enough votes to be brought to the floor. The bill did not address SPARC’s issues.
In July 2018, House Democrats introduced a competing proposal for HEA reauthorization the AIM HIGHER Act. While it was broadly expected the bill would not move in the 115th Congress, it was intended to lay out a Democrat vision for reauthorization. SPARC applauded AIM HIGHER for including provisions from the Affordable College Textbook Act, but opposed the changes to Sec. 133 of HEA included in the bill.