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Conference Report on H.R. 4137, Higher Education Opportunity Act

Location: Washington, DC

CONFERENCE REPORT ON H.R. 4137, HIGHER EDUCATION OPPORTUNITY ACT -- (Extensions of Remarks - August 01, 2008)


The House in Committee of the Whole House on the State of the Union had under consideration the bill (H.R. 4137) to amend and extend the Higher Education Act of 1965, and for other purposes.

* Mr. HOLT. Mr. Chairman, I would like to commend Chairman Miller and Mr. McKeon for producing a strong piece of legislation. The Higher Education Opportunity Act does what the name suggests. It expands affordability and access to college education for the broadest range of Americans. It expands Pell Grants, the basis of financial aid, and I'm pleased to say it allows Pell Grants to be used year round and for certificate programs and part-time students, something I have been working on for a long time.

* This Act will help bring transparency and accountability to student loan programs by requiring institutions of higher education and lenders to adopt strict codes of conduct, and protects students from aggressive marketing practices by lenders. It will provide students with full information about their borrowing options when taking out loans, and help promote financial literacy for students and their parents.

* This legislation will help streamline the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, FAFSA, and encourage the Department of Education to coordinate with the IRS to use information that the Government already has. It as well expands the access for low-income families to student aid with an easy to use two-page FAFSA-EZ form. Additionally, the bill strengthens the TRIO and GEAR UP college readiness programs for first-generation and low-income students.

* One of the complaints I hear most from students and their parents is about the ever-increasing cost of college textbooks. This bill will help make textbook costs more manageable by ensuring students know the price of textbooks in advance so they can plan for the expense. And it requires colleges and faculty members to have access to the textbook costs when making selections for their courses.

* The bill also builds on our work to restore the full benefits of the GI Bill to our Nation's veterans, by creating a new scholarship program for active duty military personnel and family members. It also establishes support centers to help veterans succeed in college and ensures fairness for veterans in student aid decisions.

* I am pleased that this bill will help colleges recruit, retain, and graduate students with disabilities. The legislation will also help colleges

improve their facilities and educational materials for these students. Further, it will establish a national center to provide support services and best practices to colleges to best serve students with disabilities and their families.

* The legislation also responds to the tragedy at Virginia Tech by helping colleges to develop and implement state-of-the-art emergency systems and campus safety plans. Following a recommendation from college campus safety directors, the bill creates a National Center for Campus Safety to work in collaboration with the COPS program.

* The bill also contains provisions, which I wrote into the measure, to strengthen our workforce and our Nation's competitiveness.

* The bill would implement my initiative to provide loan forgiveness for STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, or Math) employees who work in those fields. My initiative also establishes a loan forgiveness program for foreign language specialists who work as teachers or Government employees.

* The legislation creates a Deputy Assistant Secretary for International and Foreign Language Education in the Department of Education. Based on legislation that I wrote, the executive-level officer would provide leadership in directing efforts aimed at international and foreign language education.

* The measure establishes a program that I championed, 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.

* Based on my work, the bill develops the Mathematics & Science Scholars Program to grants and loan forgiveness to math and science students who commit to 5 consecutive years of service in a math or science field after graduation.

* Included in the bill is my legislation to establish 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.

* I am pleased that the measure includes the ``Preparing Teachers for Digital Age Learners'' program to help teacher candidates effectively integrate technology in the classroom. The program, which I advocated for, would work with teaching candidates on how they can bring modern digital tools in the classroom.

* Additionally, the bill incorporates my legislation, the Nursing School Capacity Act, which requires 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.

* Finally, based on my efforts the bill improves 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.

* Each of these provisions and the many more contained in the final Act will have positive impacts on our Nation and I am pleased that they soon will be implemented into law.

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