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Public Statements

College Access and Opportunity Act of 2005

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Date:
Location: Washington, DC


COLLEGE ACCESS AND OPPORTUNITY ACT OF 2005 -- (House of Representatives - March 29, 2006)

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Mr. KIND. Mr. Chairman, I thank the gentleman for yielding me this time.

Mr. Chairman, I reluctantly rise in opposition of the bill, not because I do not appreciate the hard work that has gone on in committee and the attempt of the chairman and the ranking member, everyone involved, to try to produce a bipartisan bill, but because the bill before us is really a missed opportunity bill, as my friend from Michigan described it.

This bill is one of the most important pieces of legislation that will come out of the Congress this year because it is a bill that will directly affect who we are going to be as a Nation in this century, whether we will retain our leadership in being the most innovative and creative country in the world or whether we will start sounding the retreat and waving countries like China and India good-bye as they make major investment in their education infrastructure, especially in the fields of math, science, engineering and technology, because they want to be on the cutting edge of scientific and technological discovery.

Last year, I was with the chairman on a 2-week tour of some of the higher education institutions in China. China has graduated nine times the number of engineers we did in this country. They graduated more English-speaking engineers than we did in our own country. This is one of the keys to how creative we will be and what type of economic growth and job creation we will realize and what type of national security we will have.

This bill also speaks to the anxiety that many American families feel throughout the country, and that is a fear that they are not going to be able to afford to give their child postsecondary educational opportunities because they do not have the financial means to do so.

A recent study shows that close to one-half of the low-income students in this country who are qualified and want to go on to school cannot because of financial reasons; and for a country as wealthy and as powerful as ours to be closing the door of educational opportunity because of finance alone is a recipe for economic disaster.

More can be done. There are good features in this bill, but this bill also appears before us in the shadow of the largest raid on student aid in our Nation's history, over $12 billion worth of cuts in the budget reconciliation bill that just passed weeks before in this Congress. The budget resolution that we are marking up in committee today is requiring an additional $1.3 billion in cuts in the Education and Workforce Committee budget, and we are going to have to try to figure out where those are going to come from.

The bottom line is, if we are going to remain innovative, if we are going to retain our economic strength and grow the economy, we have to make crucial investments in the education field.

I am glad that we were able to put a token scholarship program for students entering the math, science, engineering and technology fields; and I commend the chairman for working with some of us to get that accomplished, but it is just that, a token effort because the studies are coming in and they are hitting us between the eyes. The national academy, ``Rising Above the Gathering Storm''; the Glenn Commission, years before, titled ``Before It Is Too Late''; other studies that are telling us that we really do need to ramp up this investment in education before it is too late.

This is a missed opportunity, and hopefully, we will have a chance to correct it.

Mr. KIND. Mr. Chairman, college is an investment that pays off over a lifetime. Median annual earnings for a year-round, full-time worker with a bachelor's degree are about 60 percent higher than earnings for those with a high school diploma. Congress passed the Higher Education Act in 1965 to provide all Americans with greater post-secondary educational opportunities.

This bill is a missed opportunity to make college more affordable, to boost America's economic competitiveness, and to invest in American's continued prosperity. If I supported this bill, I would not be able to look the students in my congressional district in the eye because I would know I had not done all I could to help better their futures. Cost factors already prevent 48 percent of college-qualified high school graduates from attending a four-year institution and 22 percent from attending any college at all. No person in this country should ever be excluded from attending college because they cannot afford it.

During Committee consideration, we offered an alternative that would have saved the typical student more than $6,000 on his or her college loans and provided a $500 boost to the maximum Pell grant--at no additional cost to taxpayers. I am disappointed that our colleagues on the other side of the aisle were unwilling to work with us to include this proposal in the final bill.

There are, however, several provisions in the bill that I support. I am pleased to have worked with Chairman MCKEON, and Representatives EHLERS and HOLT in successfully passing an amendment to the Higher Education Act to provide scholarships and grants for students to study and enter into careers in science, technology, engineering and math, STEM, fields.

America is suffering from a shrinking talent pool of students who are proficient in fields of math, sciences, engineering and technology, and is consequently in danger of losing its unique position of world leadership in innovation and creativity. We must do more to make Americans employable in 21st century jobs by putting greater emphasis on student achievement in these areas and giving our students the tools and skills they need to compete in the today's economy. Our global competitors are doing it--we can't afford to stand idly and watch them pass us by.

In addition, I was pleased to have worked with my good friend, Representative TIERNEY, in preventing changes to the campus-based aid formula that would have cut $7.56 million in campus-based aid for the University of Wisconsin System. This money is critical for students in Wisconsin and the loss of these funds would have further reduced opportunities for students to attend college.

Another provision included in H.R. 609 that I worked on with my colleague from Wisconsin, Representative PETRI, will allow our 13 two-year colleges in the University of Wisconsin System to qualify individually for TRIO grants.

Finally, during debate in Committee, my amendment requesting the Department of Education to study the trends of adult learners was accepted. Older people are heading back to the classroom in large numbers, and we must not ignore their individual needs.

In closing, I would like to remind all my colleagues what President Bush said in his State of the Union speech in January. He said ``We must continue to lead the world in human talent and creativity. Our greatest advantage in the world has always been our educated, hardworking, ambitious people--and we are going to keep that edge.'' Yet, the President and the Congressional majority have already begun to walk away from that promise by supporting the higher education bill before us today.

As you know, Mr. Chairman, America is number one in the global economy, and we can stay number one if we make aggressive investments in education, innovation, and future generations. At a time when education is at a premium and we need to be growing the economy, we should be making it easier, not harder, for students to attend college.

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Mr. KIND. Mr. Chairman, I thank my friend from New Jersey (Mr. Holt). I want to rise to speak in favor of this amendment and commend my colleagues for coming together in a bipartisan fashion to recognize one of the more urgent needs that we have as a Nation to prepare for the global competition that our children and grandchildren will face in the 21st Century.

I think this is a very responsible amendment in light of recent reports that we have had a chance to decipher and analyze, as members of the education committee, from virtually all sectors of business in this country, the National Academy of Sciences have weighed in on an extensive study about the need for us to ramp up our investment in math, science, engineering, technology.

What this amendment also recognizes is the critical link between foreign language studies and those entering the fields of math and science, which is growing even more critical given the complex, interdependent economic relationship that we have with so many people and so many countries and so many businesses throughout the world.

This is a critical need that this amendment recognizes and speaks to. I want to especially commend my friend from New Jersey for the leadership that he has provided, not only to those of us on the committee but for the entire Congress, given his background and qualifications and expertise to speak on the subject of content knowledge in math, science and engineering.

He can correct me if I am wrong, but I think one of his campaign bumper stickers that his volunteers and supporters were fond of handing out was that their Congressman is a rocket scientist. And we have had the pleasure of benefiting from that knowledge on the committee. And he along with Mr. Ehlers have been tireless in their advocacy for us to do more as an institution to ramp up the fields of study of math and science and engineering.

This is, as Mr. Dreier indicated, consistent with one of the calls the President made in the State of the Union address with the American Competitiveness Initiative. That is something that I hope we all can come together in a bipartisan fashion to support and move forward on, not just in a passing authorizing language but also the important appropriation in the funds to back up these programs.

The other issue that Mr. Holt spoke to that I think is very important too is in regards to the adjunct teachers envisioned under this legislation. Teaching is different from private life. You just cannot pluck someone off the street no matter how good and no matter how knowledgeable they are in the realm of business or in the research labs, put them in a classroom and expect them to work miracles with the students. We are hoping as we move forward with this legislation, if it is accepted, that there be pre-in-service training and screening with these adjunct teachers before they enter the classroom, before they start working with these kids at such a crucial developmental age.

We have a long way to go as a Nation in light of the current trends around the globe. Many of us on the Education Committee last year had a chance for a couple of weeks to do a higher education tour of China to see where they are going. China and India are clearly two nations that are going to be very significant and influential in world events in the 21st century. We are already starting to see that influence today.

China is a country that is not content with just being good at copying and mass producing. They want be on the cutting edge of scientific and medical and technological discoveries. We need to recognize that in light of the competition it will pose to our students in the 21st century and be willing to support bipartisan amendments like this in order to makes these steps to advance the cause of critical content knowledge in these critical fields that will hopefully enable us to retain our leadership in being the most innovative and creative nation in the world.

Again, I commend my colleagues for their leadership and vision on this amendment. I hope the rest of our colleagues will support it.

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