Congress Enacts Higher Education Act Reauthorization

Before leaving for its summer recess, Congress passed and sent to the president a bill (H.R. 4137, H. Rept. 110-803) reauthorizing federal higher education programs. It marks the first time in over a decade that Congress had reauthorized the Higher Education Act. The bill includes a new “American History for Freedom” initiative to establish or strengthen postsecondary academic programs or centers that promote the teaching of “traditional American history, free institutions and the history and achievements of Western Civilization.”

The three-year grants will be awarded on a competitive basis and the legislation authorizes the program beginning in fiscal year 2009 and for five successive fiscal years.

Funding can be used to:

  • design and implementation of programs of study, courses, lecture series, seminars, and symposia;
  • development, publication, and dissemination of instructional materials;
  • support for faculty teaching in undergraduate and, if applicable, graduate programs;
    support for graduate and postgraduate fellowships, if applicable; or
  • teacher preparation initiatives that stress content mastery regarding traditional American history, free institutions, or Western civilization,

The funds may also be used to conduct outreach activities designed to ensure information developed under the program are widely disseminated.

In addition, funds may be used to support collaboration with entities such as–

  • local educational agencies, for the purpose of providing elementary and secondary school teachers an opportunity to enhance their knowledge of traditional American history, free institutions, or Western civilization; and
  • nonprofit organizations whose mission is consistent with the purpose of this section, such as academic organizations, museums, and libraries, for assistance in carrying out activities described under subsection (a);

Traditional American History is defined in the bill as “the significant constitutional, political, intellectual, economic, and foreign policy trends and issues that have shaped the course of American history; and the key episodes, turning points, and leading figures involved in the constitutional, political, intellectual, diplomatic, and economic history of the United States.”

Free Institutions is defined as “an institution that emerged out of Western civilization, such as democracy, constitutional government, individual rights, market economics, religious freedom and religious tolerance, and freedom of thought and inquiry.”