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Higher Education, LGBTQ groups oppose PROSPER Act

Rep. Virginia Foxx (R-N.C.) is one of a number of Republicans in Congress pushing the PROSPER Act [1], which they call “higher education’s long overdue reform.”

But a number of prominent higher education voices and LGBTQ groups are pushing back on the act, saying it will further restrict access to higher education [2] and could make it harder to enforce anti-discrimination policies.

In a joint statement with Rep. Brett Guthrie (R-KY) Foxx, in her role as chair of the House Committee on Education and the Workforce, recently touted the act despite mounting criticisms since it came out of committee back in December. [3]

“With six million unfilled jobs and over a trillion dollars in student debt, simply reauthorizing the Higher Education Act will help no one,” the joint statemtn read. “A hard truth that students, families, and institutions must face is that the promise of a postsecondary education is broken. We need a higher education system that is designed to meet the needs of today’s students and has the flexibility to innovate for tomorrow’s workforce opportunities.”

A recent NBC News report [4] outlined concerns about the 600-page bill’s emphasis on religious liberty allowing for more religious discrimination, as in the recent case of a University of Iowa’s Business Leaders in Christ student group, which sued the school [5] for the right to prevent gay students from holding leadership positions.

From the report:

Jenny Pizer, law and policy director at Lambda Legal, told NBC News this provision fails to recognize that colleges and universities are already grappling with the “best way to maintain an environment open to diverse opinions” while at the same time protecting the wellbeing of all students on campus.

“A school should be able to say, ‘We are only giving official recognition and support to groups that are not discriminatory.’”

 Pizer said organizations like BLinC are trying to “have it both ways.” Namely, she said, they want to be able to exclude certain students while still receiving university (and taxpayer) funds while doing so.

“That’s what the extreme right is pushing for here,” she added.

 

On Monday a group of 35 Higher Education groups sent a letter to House leaders opposing the act [6].