House Panel Votes to Repeal 'Credit Hour' and 'State Authorization' Rules

June 15, 2011

The U.S. House of Representatives education committee approved a bill Wednesday that would repeal a pair of controversial Education Department rules set to take effect July 1.

The bill (HR 2117), authored by Rep. Virginia Foxx, Republican of North Carolina, would block rules that would set a federal definition of a credit hour and expand state oversight of colleges.

The rule defining a credit hour is intended to curb credit inflation that could result in the overawarding of student aid. Critics of the rule argue that a new strict standard would stymie innovation at colleges and would not guarantee the quality of learning.

The second rule, on state authorization, requires colleges that enroll students through online or distance-learning programs to seek any necessary state approval for such programs or risk losing federal aid.

Several Democrats offered amendments on Wednesday to limit the scope of the bill, but none were adopted by the committee. One of the failed amendments, by Rep. George Miller of California, the committee's top Democrat, would have postponed the repeal until the Education Department could show that it had sufficient safeguards in place to protect the federal student aid programs from fraud and abuse.

"When you put hundreds of billions of taxpayers' dollars on the street, you have to have some minimal protection," said Mr. Miller.

But Representative Foxx argued that the Department of Education's rules were unnecessary and burdensome.

"It is absolutely ridiculous that we are hurting and putting burdens on institutions of higher learning," she said.

The committee vote on the bill fell along party lines, with Republicans in favor.

The bill's chances of becoming law are relatively slim. Even if the measure clears the full House, it is unlikely to survive in the Senate, where Democrats have a majority.