Magazine article Diverse Issues in Higher Education

California Congressman Named Chair of House Education Committee

Magazine article Diverse Issues in Higher Education

California Congressman Named Chair of House Education Committee

Article excerpt

Higher education advocates will be dealing with new education leadership in the U.S. House of Representatives after the election of a new chairman for the panel that oversees colleges and universities.

Rep. Howard "Buck" McKeon, R-Calif., was elected chair of the House Committee on Education and the Workforce, the panel responsible for student financial aid policy and the Higher Education Act. McKeon is replacing Rep. John Boehner, R-Ohio, who won election as House majority leader, the second highest-ranking post in the House (see Diverse, Feb. 23).

A member of Congress since 1992, McKeon has a long track record on postsecondary education, serving as chair of a subcommittee dealing with job training and higher education for 10 years. Prior to his election to Congress, McKeon was mayor of Santa Clarita, Calif.

"He knows the issues, and he has shown a real capacity for hearing all sides of an argument and finding solutions to the challenges that the committee faces," said House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert, R-Ill., in endorsing the appointment. The House Republican Steering Committee had recommended McKeon earlier in February.

In a statement after his election, McKeon said his major goals are to improve education and reduce excessive regulations in the sector. "This is a great honor and a great challenge," he said. The California lawmaker also identified a goal to help the U.S. work force adapt to a high-tech global economy. "The edge that America brings to the table is innovation and adaptability," he said.

McKeon had little competition for the chairmanship. Rep. Tom Petri, R-Wis., a moderate and the committee's vice chairman, took himself out of the running, saying he wanted to devote more time to transportation issues. He chairs the House Subcommittee on Highways, Transit and Pipelines. Petri also is unpopular among some in the student loan industry for favoring reforms that reduce the role of financial institutions in that process.

The chairman of the 21st Century Competitiveness Subcommittee for a decade, McKeon has chaired a number of hearings focused on renewing the Higher Education Act. McKeon was widely praised for leading a bipartisan 1998 reauthorization of HEA.

"That was very much a collaborative effort," says Barmak Nassirian, associate executive director of the American Association of Collegiate Registrars and Admissions Officers. …

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