Senator Clinton Hails Passage of Higher Education Opportunity Act and Her Measures to Increase College Access
Senator Clinton Provisions Included in Major Education Bill Will Open Doors to More Middle and Low-Income and Non-Traditional Students
Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-NY) today hailed final passage of the Higher Education Opportunity Act, which includes key measures she has championed to increase access to college for middle and low-income and non-traditional students. The House and Senate both passed the legislation, which included provisions from Senator Clinton's Student Borrower Bill of Rights, Non-traditional Student Success Act, and other bills. It will now go to the President for his signature.
"For too many students, the skyrocketing cost of attending college has become a barrier to following their dreams. I am proud that both chambers today have taken the critical step towards the first reauthorization of the Higher Education Act in a decade, a step that will ensure more low- and middle-income students have the opportunity to obtain a college degree. I encourage the President to quickly sign this bill into law," said Senator Clinton.
Senator Clinton championed the inclusion of provisions that will place well-trained superintendents, principals, and other school leadership personnel in rural schools, ensure new teachers are trained on the components of reading instruction, and expand current loan forgiveness programs to teachers in the Board of Cooperative Educational Services (BOCES) and educational service agencies. Teachers in BOCES serve students with disabilities and students enrolled in career and technical education classes- two areas in which New York is experiencing teacher shortages. Creating access to loan forgiveness programs will help recruit and retain teachers, while ensuring students are taught by qualified and effective teachers.
The Higher Education Opportunity Act includes the following provisions from Senator Clinton's Student Borrower's Bill of Rights:
* Assistance for borrowers with disabilities: Allows disabled students to permanently discharge their student loans, with appropriate safeguards.
* Timely information: Requires lenders to provide borrowers monthly information about a borrower's loan, and pertinent information for borrowers in delinquency, default, or seeking to consolidate/reconsolidate.
* Accurate and comprehensive reporting to credit bureaus: Requires lenders to report student loans to credit bureaus as student loans, differentiating between student loans and other loans on credit reports.
Senator Clinton also secured approval of the following provisions from her Non-Traditional Student Success Act, which will make college more accessible and affordable for students who are older, working full or part-time, have children, or are the first in their families to go to college:
· Support for Non-traditional Students: Makes Pell grants available year round to provide the critical support these students need to complete their college education.
· Support for Foster Youth: Expands the definition of independent students to include youth in foster care, aging out of foster care or emancipated minors.
"The number of non-traditional students has been increasing dramatically on college campuses all across America. Many of these students face unique challenges as they pursue their degrees. They work hard to handle the rising costs of education, to balance work, school, and family responsibilities, to overcome inadequate academic preparation, and to navigate the college environment. This legislation will make it easier for adults to face these challenges so they can improve their skills and increase their earnings," said Senator Clinton.
Additionally, the conference report includes three new programs sponsored by Senator Clinton. The first will place help place 10,000 new teachers in disadvantaged communities over the next three years. The second will increase the college-going rates in disadvantaged communities by requiring the Department of Education to contract with a qualified not-for-profit with experience increasing the college-going rates in disadvantaged communities, who will then provide trend data by high school on the rates of college attendance each year. The third will provide tailored support for veterans going back to college - the Supporting Education for Returning Veterans Act- by authorizing grants to institutions of higher education to establish dedicated "Centers of Excellence for Veteran Student Success" on campus to assist veteran students with everything from financial aid and veterans' benefits to academic advising and mental health counseling. It builds on the historic GI Bill recently passed by Congress by proactively addressing the unique needs of veterans on campus and helping to ensure that they thrive both as students and members of their college communities. Representative Ruben Hinojosa (D-TX) introduced similar legislation in the House of Representatives and was instrumental in ensuring its inclusion in the final bill.
The Higher Education Opportunity Act will also improve the process of applying for student assistance by simplifying the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), immediately creating a new 2-page EZ-FAFSA for low-income students and phasing out the current 7-page FAFSA within 5 years. This bill will also strengthen the TRIO/Upward Bound and the Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness of Undergraduate Programs (GEAR-UP), helping millions of low-income and first-generation students obtain fundamental educational tools to successfully pursue higher education. In addition, this bill will produce transparency in college costs for students, improve student achievement and the quality of America's teaching force by promoting strategies to recruit and prepare qualified teachers, and improve the financial literacy of students and their parents.
Senator Clinton has long been a champion of higher education and supporting college students. Two of the provisions from her Student Borrower Bill of Rights were enacted into law during the 109th Congress through the Emergency Supplemental Appropriations Act for Defense 2006. Two of the provisions from her previously introduced Nontraditional Student Success Act were also enacted into law through the Deficit Reduction Act of 2005.