Rep. Baca Votes to Expand College Access, Lower Education Costs
Congressman Joe Baca (D-Rialto) today joined a bipartisan majority in the House of Representatives to vote for final passage of legislation that continues this Congress' efforts to make college more affordable and accessible for all Americans. The College Opportunity and Affordability Act (H.R. 4137) passed by a vote of 354 - 58, and helps to reform our nation's higher education system so that it operates in the best interests of students, boosts American competitiveness, and strengthens our future.
"With today's legislation, Congress continues its historic investment in higher education for all Americans," said Rep. Baca. "Recent reports show that college tuitions and fees have skyrocketed by 31% in the last five years. This bill addresses these rising costs by strengthening college readiness programs, ensuring that our states maintain their higher education funding commitments, and holding colleges accountable for their price increases."
The College Opportunity and Affordability Act reauthorizes the Higher Education Act through the year 2012. It ensures more qualified students can attend college by simplifying the federal student aid application process. The legislation also begins to address the issue of rising college costs by encouraging colleges to use innovative strategies to rein in price increases. In addition, the bill provides need-based grant aid incentives to those colleges and universities that make a good faith effort to keep tuition costs low.
"A college education continues to be the best path to success in America," added Rep. Baca. "After years of rising education costs, our low and moderate income families deserve a helping hand to make sure the doors of opportunity remain open to them."
In addition to addressing rising college prices, the College Opportunity and Affordability Act also builds on this Congress' commitment to investing in minority students. The legislation focuses on expanding college access and preparing minority students for competitive and innovative jobs, a key part of strengthening our workforce and our economy. H.R. 4137 will:
-Expand need-based aid for minority students by making Pell Grant scholarships available year round;
- Strengthen work-study programs that help colleges and universities pay the wages of eligible undergraduate and graduate students who are willing to work part-time to pay for tuition;
- Expands authorization levels for Historically Black Colleges and Universities, and creates a new graduate program for Hispanic-Serving Institutions; and
- Creates new partnership programs for Minority-Serving Institutions to help attract young students into science, engineering, technology, and mathematics fields.
"As our Inland economies continue to struggle, now more than ever it is important we commit ourselves to making college more affordable and accessible," concluded Rep. Baca. "I will continue to work so that every capable student has an equal chance at an education, no matter their income level or skin color."