While called a "dangerous precedent" by critics, the bills' supporters say the proposal could hold down tuition hikes at public colleges and universities, Stateline.org reported Monday.
"One of the biggest factors driving tuition increases at public colleges and universities is states' cutbacks in higher education funding," said Rachel Racusen, spokeswoman for House Education and Labor Chairman George Miller, D-Calif., the bill's primary sponsor.
Included in the College Opportunity and Affordability Act, the provision would require each state's higher education funding to be at or above the average it spent in the preceding five years.
States falling short could lose their share of federal money from the $65 million Leveraging Educational Assistance Partnership grant program aimed at helping poor students.
"Once again the federal government is saying that they're the ones that have the most expertise to run education in individual states," said North Dakota state Rep. Rae Ann Kelsch, chairwoman of the National Conference of State Legislatures' education standing committee.
"The provision would set a dangerous precedent for the federal intrusion into state policy and the appropriation authority."