Last Thursday, the House of Representatives approved a renewed and altered version of the recently expired Higher Education Act. A similar renewal act was passed by the Senate in July, and it was also unanimous. Before the bill is sent to the president, it will have to be reviewed again, and one version must be created. The amended portion, otherwise known as the College Opportunity and Affordability Act, addresses financial aid hardships faced by students attempting to afford a college education. Connecticut Congressman Joe Courtney stated that, "Access for all Americans to a college education is a roadmap to a strong middle class."
Based on information provided by the House of Representatives’ Committee on Education and Labor, the College Opportunity and Affordability Act will:
1. Encourage colleges to lower or maintain costs by making sure that states provide them with sufficient funding. Schools that choose to increase tuition will have to provide reasoning for the change as well as plans to again decrease costs.
2. Lower the chance that lenders and schools will engage in inappropriate relations (such as the use of biased preferred lender lists) by requiring that lenders and schools abide by codes of conduct and by making more loan information available to student borrowers.
3. Simplify the FAFSA application process by creating a more straightforward FAFSA-EZ form for low-income families and by allowing families more time to create plans for tuition saving.
4. Assist students in affording textbooks by providing information about the costs of books in advance.
5. Improve education by creating programs that encourage students to act on their interests in the sciences and by providing financial assistance to graduates who work in the public sector.
6. Help low income, minority and disabled students afford an education by improving the effectiveness of the TRIO grant for low-income students, by helping colleges recruit and retain students with disabilities and by allowing students to receive Pell Grant scholarships aid year round.
7. Increase financial and social support for veterans and military families interested in receiving a postsecondary education.
8. Improve safety by helping colleges create emergency systems and by establishing disaster relief loan programs in case of disaster.