BIDEN Initiatives to Improve College Access and Address Nursing Faculty Shortages Pass Senate

Press Release

By:  Joe Biden, Jr.
Date: July 31, 2008
Location: Washington, DC

BIDEN Initiatives to Improve College Access and Address Nursing Faculty Shortages Pass Senate

Tonight, the Senate approved the Higher Education Opportunity Act of 2008, a renewal of the Higher Education Act, which will increase student aid and bring down the cost of college. Two initiatives championed by Senator Joseph R. Biden, Jr. (D-DE) were included in the final bill: the Early Federal Pell Grant Commitment Demonstration Program and the Nurse Faculty Pilot Project.

"Today the Senate passed a bill that substantially strengthens our higher education system" said Sen. Biden.

"This legislation provides access to a higher education system that continues to be the envy of the world. I would be remiss if I did not recognize Senator Kennedy's role in passing this bill. This is a testament to his unyielding commitment and dedication to improving our education system, and I thank him for his leadership."

Currently, about one-third of all public high school students in the United States do not graduate from high school. Starting the financial aid process earlier can instill an expectation that the future includes graduating high school and going on to college, spurring families and students to plan ahead for college.

"I am particularly pleased this bill includes the necessary programs to address two serious challenges facing our nation: large numbers of college-qualified students who do not prepare for college because they believe they cannot afford it, and a critical shortage of nursing faculty needed to train the next wave of nurses in America." Sen. Biden continued.

Highlights of the Early Federal Pell Grant Commitment Demonstration Program and the Nurse Faculty Pilot Program are below.

The Early Federal Pell Grant Commitment Demonstration Program, which Sen. Biden first introduced last year (S.1467), funds pilot projects in four states that will focus on disadvantaged youth and their prospects of attending college as they enter high school, not as they leave.

Specifically the program:

* Commits Pell Grants to two groups of up to 10,000 8th grade students, the first in school year 2008-2009, and the second in school year 2009-2010 in four states selected by the Secretary of Education based on submitted applications;

* Requires participating students must graduate high school and complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA);

* Mandates that states and the participating local educational agencies conduct targeted information campaigns starting in the 8th grade and continuing through the students' senior year. These campaigns will inform students and their families of the program, as well as provide them with information about the cost of college, state and federal financial assistance, and average aid awards;

* Requires an independent evaluation to be conducted to determine the impact and effectiveness of the Early Federal Pell Grant Commitment Demonstration Program; and

* Requires students participation in the pilot program be based on eligibility for the National School Lunch Program.

The Nurse Faculty Pilot Project was incorporated in a new Capacity for Nursing Students and Faculty Program, which awards competitive grants to nursing programs to expand the number of faculty and improve facilities. The Nurse Faculty Pilot Project, which was first introduced by Rep. Caroline McCarthy (D-NY) in the House of Representatives (H.R. 2384) and included as a companion piece in Senator Biden's Nursing Education Opportunities Act (S. 2230), supports partnerships between accredited nursing schools and hospitals and health facilities to improve alignment between nursing education and healthcare delivery.

In 2007, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projected that more than one million new and replacement nurses will be needed by 2016. However, according to the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN), US nursing schools turned away over 40,000 qualified applicants in 2007, largely because of an insufficient number of nurse faculty.

Specifically, this project:

* Authorizes ten percent of the funding provided for the Capacity for Nursing Students and Faculty Program to be used for the Nurse Faculty Pilot Project;

* Allows grants awarded under the pilot project to be used to let participating students earn a salary while obtaining an advanced degree in nursing with the goal of becoming nurse faculty by funding release time for them to pursue their degree, providing for faculty salaries or offering scholarships to qualified nurses; and

* Improves the alignment between nursing education and the emerging challenges of health care delivery by authorizing the purchase of distance learning technologies and expanding methods of delivery of instruction to include alternatives to onsite learning; and through the collection, analysis, and dissemination of data on educational outcomes and best practices.

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