Congressman Dale E. Kildee (D-MI) joined an overwhelming bipartisan majority in the House of Representatives to approve legislation that would address the rising price of college tuition and remove other obstacles that make it harder for qualified students to go to college. By a vote of 380 - 49, the House approved the House-Senate Conference Report of H.R. 4137, the Higher Education Opportunity Act, which would reform the nation's higher education programs to the benefit of students and families.
"A college education continues to be the best path to the middle class. However, the rising cost of a higher education is putting a college degree further out of reach for students," said Kildee.
An October 2007 report from the College Board showed that, over the previous five years, tuition and fees had increased significantly at two-year and four-year colleges, both public and private. In Michigan, tuition and fees at public four-year institutions grew by 11 percent between the 2006-07 and 2007-08 school years. In addition to rising tuition, students and their families face an overly complex federal student aid application process and a student loan industry mired in conflicts of interest and abusive lending practices.
H.R. 4137 would address the rising cost of tuition by encouraging colleges to minimize price increases, providing students and families with consumer friendly information on college pricing and the factors driving tuition increases, and streamlining the federal student financial aid application process.
"This bill will provide students with the information about college costs necessary for them to make the right choices about their education," said Kildee. "By requiring better consumer disclosures and protections on private student loans, it also restores integrity and accountability to the student loan programs."
The legislation builds on the efforts of the Democratic Congress to make college more affordable and accessible for all qualified students. Last year, Congress enacted into law a $20 billion increase in college financial aid over the next five years, the largest increase in student aid since the G.I. Bill of 1944. Last year's work will incrementally cut federal student loan interest rates from 6.8 percent to 3.4 percent by 2011 and will increase the Pell Grant from $4,310 last year to not less than $5,400 by 2012.
In addition, the Higher Education Opportunity Act would:
· Make textbook costs more manageable for students by providing them information about what those costs will be sooner;
· Allow students to receive year-round Pell Grant scholarships;
· Strengthen college readiness and support programs for minority and low-income students;
· Increase college aid and support programs for veterans and military families;
· Improve safety on college campuses and help schools recover and rebuild after a disaster; and
· Strengthen our nation's workforce and economic competitiveness by boosting science, technology, and foreign language educational opportunities.
The Senate is also expected to take a final vote on the legislation this week; if passed the bill would then be sent to the President's desk for his signature.