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Congress Passes Higher Education Act


Aug 1, 2008
The Higher Education Opportunity Act (HEA), approved by a joint committee earlier this week, passed both houses of Congress yesterday.  While members of the Bush Administration have expressed some reservations about the bill, the President is still expected to sign it into law.Reactions to the HEA have been mixed, with many universities and organizations critiquing the bill's broad scope, increased requirements for schools, and timing, as it may be nearly impossible to implement all of the changes required by the bill in time for the 2008-2009 school year.  Especially under attack is the act's mandate for schools to provide students with legal alternatives to illegally downloading media, where possible.  While this could be good news for students, many critics fail to see how this [...]
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103 months ago 0 comments

The new version of the Higher Education Act (HEA) is at last moving to the floors of the House and Senate for a vote. After seven years of waiting and debating, Congressional reauthorization of the HEA could finally happen in the next week, setting the stage for a number of changes in federal student financial aid for college students. [...]

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A survey released yesterday by the National Association of Financial Aid Administrators (NASFAA) indicated that 90 percent of financial aid administrators are at least somewhat concerned about the current student loan crunch.  As lenders continue to opt out of Federal Family Education Loan Programs (FFELP) and to reduce the number of schools they make loans available to, many financial aid administrators remain concerned that students at their institutions may have decreased access to money for school.  While overall administrators expressed confidence that the recent Ensuring Continued Access to Student Loans Act will help students pay for college this year, 52 percent said that more needed to be done to make sure students will have sufficient access to college loans in the future, and more than half stated that they believe it will be more difficult for students to borrow additional private loans in the upcoming school year. [...]

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Technology, rental programs, and new laws could finally reverse the trend of rising textbook costs, according to a recent article in U.S. News and World Report.  Students, parents, and professors alike often recoil at the astronomical pricetag of some textbooks, especially for introductory courses students are required to take.  For many, textbook purchases can represent the last hurdle in the race to pay for school, as students who have managed to find money for college tuition and housing still may not be able to foot a textbook bill of several hundred dollars per semester. [...]

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Despite an initial House split over some of the bill’s provisions—an incident which nearly doomed approval by the House—an agreement on the veteran college aid bill was reached by both Congress and the President. On June 30, President Bush signed into law the bill which would, among other things, provide veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars additional assistance in affording a college education. [...]

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On Tuesday, a Senate panel approved a budget that would increase, among other things, the Pell Grant funding for the 2009 school year. Currently, students who demonstrate financial need—as determined by a Department of Education's FAFSA calculation—can receive no more than $4,300 in Pell Grant money, but not all eligible students receive the full sum.   For the upcoming year, the Pell Grant cap will be $4,731. If the Senate panel’s budget is approved by the Senate Appropriations Committee and by the Senate, students could be eligible for up to $4,800. [...]

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The House of Representatives plans to vote today on the latest version of the GI Bill, a law aimed at increasing the college financial aid awarded to veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. The Associated Press stated that Congress and the White House have reached an agreement on the bill's provisions, and that approval by the House and the President is expected. [...]

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After threatening to veto a bill aimed at boosting financial aid to veterans who pursued a postsecondary education, the president is now expected to ask Congress for even more funding. The White House has indicated that should a new provision allowing troops to transfer their education benefits to families be added, President Bush would be more inclined to sign.The surprising turn of events is not likely to go over well with conservative Democrats, suggested an Associate Press article. Though many supported the idea of awarding sufficient aid to cover a four-year degree at the most expensive state university, some party members are weary about increasing the current proposal by $25 billion.  Worried that the sufficient funding could not be raised by simply cutting back in other areas, [...]
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Following a controversial House tactic for approving only a part of their veteran tuition bill, the Senate today agreed upon their bill in whole. Based on the Senate version, veterans who have served in the military for a minimum of three years following the September 11 attacks would receive enough financial assistance to cover tuition at the most expensive public college or university in their state. A monthly stipend to be used for housing costs would also be provided for eligible veterans. A more divisive bill amendment—one that would set aside billions for the Iraq and Afghanistan wars—was approved by Senate but denied by the House. Rather than accept the bill in its entirety, the House decided to break the draft into three parts, voting only against the war funding portion. [...]

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Young adults often join the army hoping that their contributions will serve the nation's good and aid them in affording a quality education. Army.com admits that, “Ninety percent of servicemembers enter the armed forces for the educational benefits.” Unfortunately, an increasing number of veterans are finding their promised aid insufficient in paying for tuition and other costs. [...]

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After passing the Senate and the House in varying formats, a compromise was reached on legislation that would help lenders stay afloat in a troublesome student loan market. The Ensuring Continued Access to Student Loans Act of 2008 was sent to the President yesterday, and rapid approval is expected. [...]

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To alleviate the affects of the intensifying credit crunch, Sallie Mae has been lobbying for government assistance. In past months, student lenders have been struggling to find buyers for both their loans and their loan securities. Sallie Mae, the largest student lender in the business, has turned to the government for assistance, asking that the US Treasury assuage loan market tensions by purchasing their securities. [...]

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On Thursday, the US House of Representatives passed a bill aimed at halting the mass leave of student lenders from the federal loan program. According to The Chronicle of Higher Education, more than 50 lenders have left the Federal Family Education Loan (FFEL) Program to date. The growing departure has left families fearing that students will have no one to turn to for financial assistance once their Pell Grants and savings run dry. [...]

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Just two weeks ago, Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings addressed the US House Committee on Education and Labor about its fear of a federal lending program meltdown. To the best of her ability, she tried to qualm the legislators' fears and to convince them that negative speculations were exaggerated. “More than 2,000 originating lenders participate in FFEL,” she said. “A small number of these lenders have reduced their participation or stopped originating new loans.” [...]

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On February 4th, President Bush unveiled his much criticized national budget to a frustrated Congress. Members of both parties found fault with the president for his proposal to increase funding for the military at the expense of Medicare. According to the Los Angeles Times, President Bush’s proposal could slow the growth of Medicare programs by nearly $208 billion over the next five years. [...]

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Each year, I heard complaints about the textbook policies of my old college economics teacher. He wrote the only textbook required for class and re-released it—in a nearly identical format—annually. As a result, previous students couldn’t make money by reselling their old books, and new students couldn’t buy used books at a discounted price. [...]

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In last night’s State of the Union address, President Bush called on Congress to cut down on bill earmarking. Earmarks, often attached to spending bills at the last minute, have been used to designate money to benefit legislators' personal interests. Local and state projects that may not have otherwise been funded are often successfully snuck into an earmark and financed. [...]

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Worried about President Bush’s threat to veto the bill, Democrats in Congress have made cuts to their initial proposal for the 2008 appropriations bill. The funding would affect numerous federal agencies, and compromised budgetary proposals were a common theme. Higher education programs dealing with financial aid and research grants were among those to see funding cuts.    As reported by the Chronicle of Higher Education, the new bill would decrease the Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant (FSEOG) program budget by $13.5 million. The Perkins Loan program, a low-income federal student loan option, as well as the Leveraging Education Assistance Program (LEAP) would receive $1.1 million less than they [...]
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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." [...]

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After what seemed like a never-ending battle between the Senate and the House, a compromise was finally reached on the College Cost Reduction and Access Act. What’s more, based on White House reports, President Bush is even going to retract his earlier threat to veto the bill. The proposal was sent to the president on Friday, and a signature is expected shortly. [...]

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Before Attorney General Andrew Cuomo’s investigation into the student lender business even began, talks of making student loans more affordable were in the works for Democrats. Now that slews of financial aid officials have been found guilty of accepting money and gifts in exchange for spots on preferred-lender lists, changes are on their way. [...]

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