Washington, D.C.- Congressman Brian Higgins (NY-27) today voted for legislation to address the skyrocketing price of college tuition and remove other obstacles that make it harder for qualified students to go to college. The College Opportunity and Affordability Act (H.R. 4137), which passed by an overwhelming bipartisan majority of 354-58, would reform and strengthen the nationís higher education programs to ensure that they operate in the best interests of students and families.
ďThe Higher Education Act was first enacted over 40 years ago to help all students, especially low-income and disadvantaged students, gain access to a college education. The College Opportunity and Affordability Act will help restore the promise of this law by making our higher education system more fair and easy-to-navigate, and once again serve the best interests of qualified students pursuing the education they deserve,Ē Higgins said.
H.R. 4137 is a comprehensive reauthorization of the Higher Education Act, the primary federal law aimed at expanding college access for low- and middle-income students. The legislation is the second major step that the new Democratic Congress has taken to make college more affordable and accessible for all qualified students. Last year, Congress enacted into law a $20 billion increase in college financial aid over the next five years, the largest increase in student aid since the G.I. Bill of 1944.
An October 2007 report from the College Board showed that, over the past five years, tuition and fees had increased across the board, at public and private colleges and at two-year and four-year colleges. The bill would address these rising prices by encouraging colleges to rein in price increases with incentives, such as additional need-based aid, ensuring that states maintain their commitments to higher education funding, and providing students and families with consumer friendly information on college pricing and the factors driving tuition increases.
The legislation also strengthens provisions previously approved by the House to avoid conflicts of interest in the student loan programs. The billís new provisions include requiring better consumer disclosures and protections on private student loans.
In addition, the College Opportunity and Affordability Act would:
∑ Simplify the federal student aid application process by streamlining the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) process, and creating an easy-to-navigate two-page FAFSA-EZ form for low-income families;
∑ Assist students in managing text book costs by ensuring that colleges and faculty have full textbook pricing information when making purchasing decisions, and by helping students plan for textbook expenses in advance of each semester;
∑ Allow students to receive year-round Pell Grant scholarships;
∑ Strengthen college readiness and support programs for minority and low-income students;
∑ Increase college aid and support programs for veterans and military families;
∑ Improve safety on college campuses and help schools recover and rebuild after a disaster;
∑ Ensure equal college opportunities and fair learning environments for students with disabilities; and
∑ Strengthen our nationís workforce and economic competitiveness by boosting science, technology, and foreign language educational opportunities.