PASSED HIGHER EDUCATION BILL INCLUDES HOLT COLLEGE AFFORDABILITY,
FOREIGN LANGUAGE, MATH & SCIENCE EDUCATION INITIATIVES
Bill Awaits President Bush's Signature
Congress today sent to President Bush for his signature the "Higher Education and Opportunity Act" - legislation supported by Rep. Rush Holt (NJ-12) to make college more affordable and accessible for students in New Jersey and throughout the country. Holt, a member of the House Committee on Education and Labor, wrote a number of the bill's provisions, including expanding Pell Grants, improving child care programs for parents in school, and strengthening support for foreign language, math and science education. The bill now goes to President Bush for his signature. The Higher Education Act has not been reauthorized since 1998, with the current law expiring in 2003.
"Higher Education and Opportunity Act contains several initiatives to make college education more affordable and accessible and to strengthen the education students receive," Holt said. "As a former educator, I believe it is critical that we properly invest in higher education to bolster our nation's growth and global competitiveness in the future. I am especially pleased the bill includes my initiatives focusing on science, mathematics, and foreign language studies."
The Higher Education and Opportunity Act would expand Pell Grants, which are need-based grants for undergraduates. This year, Pell Grants will assist 5.3 million students. The bill would increase the authorized maximum Pell Grant award to $8,000 from the current $5,800. Additionally, the bill would adopt Holt's provision to allow Pell Grants to be used year round and for certificate programs and part-time students.
In addition to addressing rising college prices, the bill would help students manage their textbook costs, clean up conflicts of interest in the student loan industry, provide vital consumer protections on both federal and private student loans, and simplify the federal student aid application process.
In additional to Holt's year-round Pell Grant provision, the bill includes the following Holt initiatives:
--Establishing loan forgiveness for STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, or Math) employees who work in those fields. Holt's initiative also establishes a loan forgiveness program for foreign language specialists who work as teachers or government employees.
--Creating a Deputy Assistant Secretary for International and Foreign Language Education in the Department of Education. The executive-level officer would provide leadership in directing efforts aimed at international and foreign language education.
--Establishing the Science and Technology Advanced Foreign Language Grants program to award funding to institutions of higher education to create programs that encourage students to develop foreign language proficiency as well as science and technological knowledge.
--Developing a Mathematics & Science Scholars Program. The program would provide grants and loan forgiveness to math and science students who would commit to five consecutive years of service in a math or science field after graduation.
--Creating a National STEM Database to provide students with information on financial assistance for postsecondary and graduate programs in science, technology, engineering and mathematics. This important database will help capable students who are interested in STEM careers find scholarships to support their studies.
--Requiring the Institute of Medicine to explore the constraints that the nation's schools of nursing face and propose short and long term solutions to address the nursing crisis. The language comes from Holt's Nursing School Capacity Act, which he introduced last year.
--Improving the "Child Care Access Means Parents in Schools" Program" to empower small and community colleges to provide child care to working mothers so they can attend school.
--Developing the "Preparing Teachers for Digital Age Learners" program to help teacher candidates effectively integrate technology in the classroom. The program would work with teaching candidates on how they can bring modern digital tools in the classroom.
Note to media: audio and visual of Rep. Holt talking about the bill can be found at http://holt.house.gov/HigherEd.shtml.
More information about the Higher Education and Opportunity Act can be found at http://edlabor.house.gov/publications/20080729HEOABillSummary.pdf.