The House of Representatives today passed four key provisions for rural students and families authored by Congressman Phil Hare as part of a bill reauthorizing the Higher Education Act.
Hare's provisions would make it easier for rural schools to recruit highly qualified teachers, prepare individuals to be principals, superintendents and other administrators in rural communities, inform dislocated workers, many of whom reside in rural communities, of their eligibility to qualify for more financial aid, and create economic growth and development in rural America.
"For too long, rural schools in my district have been underserved," Hare said. "As a result, students there have not had the same opportunities as their urban and suburban counterparts. I was proud to author language that will help recruit and retain high quality teachers and administrators to work and live in these communities."
Hare's first provision provides incentives to Colleges of Education to teach the skills new teachers need to work in rural schools and encourages students to complete their required student teaching hours there.
Hare's second provision expands Teacher Quality Partnership Grants to prepare students, current teachers, former military personnel, and other qualified individuals to serve as superintendents, principals, early childhood education program directors, or other school administrators in rural communities. School leadership is a key to student achievement and rural communities experience a huge deficit in this area.
Hare's third provision clarifies that students who are dislocated workers are eligible for what is known as "Professional Judgment," a process financial aid officers can employ to more accurately assess financial need, ensuring these students receive the most assistance possible. It also informs them of their right to ask for Professional Judgment in calculating their current year income, which in most cases qualifies them for more aid.
In his fourth and final provision, Hare was able to include the College and University Rural Education (CURE) Act, legislation he authored to award grants to rural-serving colleges and universities in partnership with local educational agencies, regional employers, or other organizations with a demonstrated expertise in rural education. These grants would be used to increase the enrollment of rural high school graduates in institutions of higher education, move those students into good-paying jobs, and expand training for professions of need.
"Each and every one of these provisions will go a long way to improving the lives of rural families in my district," Hare said.
The underlying bill extends the Higher Education Act through 2013. It continues efforts to make college more affordable by encouraging schools to reduce their prices, improving the transparency of overall costs, making the Pell Grant accessible year round, and simplifying the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) process.
"Democrats in Congress are committed to making college more affordable and accessible," Hare said. "By putting a college degree within their reach, this legislation will allow more working families to achieve the American dream."