Yesterday, President Bush signed the Higher Education Opportunity Act, the official reauthorization of the Higher Education Act (HEA) which governs federal student financial aid for college, as well as other federal programs and regulations that pertain to higher education.
Under the new version of the HEA students can expect a number of benefits when it comes to finding money for college. Some of the changes include:
- Increased Pell Grant awards, as well as Pell funding available for summer school. Pell Grants, currently capped at $4,731, will increase to $6,000 for the 2009-2010 school year, and will go up by an additional $400 a year, reaching $8,000 per year in 2014.
- Increased Perkins Loan limits, going from $4,000 to $5,500 for undergraduate students, and from $6,000 to $8,000 for graduate students.
- Expanded loan forgiveness programs for students pursuing careers in the following areas: early childhood educators; nurses; foreign language specialists; librarians; highly qualified teachers; child welfare workers; speech-language pathologists; audiologists; national service; school counselors; public sector employees; nutrition professionals; medical specialists; physical therapists; and superintendents, principals, and other (school) administrators; occupational therapists; and dentists.
- The creation of a FAFSA EZ form that will simplify the financial aid application process.
- Within the next year, the Department of Education will need to create a tool allowing students to estimate the net price of an education at various institutions, taking into account costs of attendance and financial aid. Schools will need to follow suit with similar tools within two years of the implementation of the federal net price calculator.
- The Department of Education will begin publishing lists of the top 5% of universities in each of the following categories: the highest tuition and fees, the highest net price, the largest percent increase of tuition and fees over the last three years, the largest percent increase in net price over the last three years. The Department of Education will also publish lists of the 10% of universities with the lowest tuition and lowest net price.
So in the coming years, students can expect to see it get easier to figure out the cost of school, pay for school
, and possibly repay loans if they're going into a high need field.
The National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators also offers a point-by-point breakdown of the Higher Education Opportunity Act on their website.