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Need-Based Educational Aid Act of 2008

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Location: Washington, DC


NEED-BASED EDUCATIONAL AID ACT OF 2008 -- (House of Representatives - September 27, 2008)

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Mr. SMITH of Texas. Mr. Speaker, I yield myself such time as I may consume.

With the current antitrust exemption for need-based educational aid expiring on September 30, our timely action is necessary. Congressman Delahunt, the sponsor of this bill, has successfully guided it through Congress, and without his efforts, we might not have extended this extension before it expired.

I appreciate Mr. Delahunt's leadership because this issue has long been of interest to me. I was a sponsor of the bill that extended the exemption in 1997 and in 2001, and I am pleased to be a cosponsor of this bill as well.

The bills in 1997 and 2001 were like the bill that passed the House last April, a permanent extension of the moratorium. Both times, the Senate amended those bills, as they did again this year, to a term of years. This exemption originated because Congress disagreed with a suit brought by the Department of Justice against nine colleges for their efforts to use common criteria to assess each student's financial need. Twenty-seven colleges and universities currently are members of the 568 Presidents' Group, which utilizes this antitrust exemption.

They include Amherst College, Boston College, Brown University, Claremont McKenna College, Columbia University, Cornell University, Dartmouth College, Davidson College, Duke University, Emory University, Georgetown University, Grinnell College, Haverford College, MIT, Middlebury College, Northwestern University, Pomona College, Rice University, Swarthmore College, the University of Chicago, the University of Notre Dame, the University of Pennsylvania, Vanderbilt University, Wake Forest University, Wellesley College, Wesleyan University, and Williams College.

Several other colleges, including Yale and Harvard, participate as advisory members of this group.

To my knowledge, there are no complaints about the existing exemption. In fact, a recent GAO study of the exemption found that there has been no abuse of the exemption, and it stated that there has not been an increase in the cost of tuition as a result of the exemption.

This bill, as amended by the Senate, would extend the exemption for another 7 years. It would not make any change to the substance of the exemption. I had hoped that Congress would have been able to extend the exemption permanently, but I'm aware that some in the Senate objected.

The need-based financial aid system serves a worthy goal that the antitrust laws do not adequately address--making financial aid available to the broadest number of students solely on the basis of demonstrated need.

No students who are otherwise qualified should be denied the opportunity to go to one of these schools because of the limited financial means of their families. This bill helps protect need-based aid and need-blind admissions. It has been noncontroversial in the past, and it is supported by a number of higher educational groups. I urge my colleagues to support this bill.

I yield back the balance of my time.

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