KENNEDY APPLAUDS APPROVAL OF HIGHER EDUCATION CONFERENCE REPORT
Senator Edward M. Kennedy (D-MA), Chairman of the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions today praised the action of Senate and House conferees in approving a Conference Report to reconcile legislation passed in the Senate and the House of Representatives to reauthorize the Higher Education Act of 1965. Approval of the conference agreement, entitled the Higher Education Opportunity Act of 2008, now clears the way for final passage of the bill later this week.
"Today's action by the Conference Committee is a major step forward for college students and their families," said Kennedy. "As the cost of college continues to rise, this bill could not come at a more crucial moment. We must act quickly to move to final passage of this important bill. And I'm enormously grateful to Senator Barbara Mikulski for her leadership in bringing together this agreement."
The Higher Education Opportunity Act focuses on four major areas: holding colleges more accountable for their costs; simplifying the application process for Federal financial aid; addressing the ethical scandals in the student loan marketplace; and expanding grant aid for the neediest students. Among other provisions, the Act:
* Requires the top 5 percent of colleges that have the greatest cost increases for their sector to submit detailed reports to the Secretary of Education explaining why their costs have risen, and what steps they will take to hold costs down;
* Replaces the complex, 7-page Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) with a 2-page "EZ-FAFSA";
* Bans lenders from offering gifts to college officials as a condition of making student loans, and requires colleges to adopt a code of conduct regarding student loans;
* Helps service members, veterans, and their families attend and pay for college by providing interest-free deferral on student loans while service members are on active duty, in-state tuition rates for service members and their families who move to a new state due to military service, and new college scholarships of up to $5,000 for children and family members of service members who have died since 9/11;
* Allows low-income students to receive Pell Grants year-round, expands eligibility for the Academic Competitiveness and National SMART Grant programs, and expands Federal loan forgiveness for a wide variety of professions, including civil legal aid lawyers, prosecutors, public defenders and teachers;
The Act also contains major provisions to help students with disabilities attend college, supports innovative training programs for K-12 teachers, expands support for minority-serving institutions; and creates special programs to address the nation's nursing shortage.