(As Prepared for Delivery)I am pleased to join my colleague, Senator Enzi, and all the Members of our Committee, inputting forth legislation to renew the Higher Education Act of 1965.
Leading up to the creation of the Higher Education Act, my brother, President Kennedy, saidthis: “Our progress as a nation can be no swifter than our progress in education. Ourrequirements for world leadership, our hopes for economic growth, and the demands ofcitizenship itself in an era such as this all require the maximum development of every youngAmerican's capacity. The human mind is our fundamental resource.”
Those words rang true then and they ring true today, as our country is once again in a time ofwar and faces great economic challenge. Equal access to higher education touches everyaspect of American life. In order to compete effectively in the global economy and ensure awell-qualified armed forces, we need to equip all of our citizens with a sound education frompre-kindergarten to college.
Each year, 400,000 qualified students don’t go to a 4-year college, simply because theycannot afford to do so. Equally devastating is the fact that only 47% of low-income 8thgraders will be academically prepared for college at the time of high school graduation in2004, compared to 86% of their higher-income peers.
We are a better nation than that – we are a nation that believes in promise and opportunityfor all of our citizens.
This bill expired in 2003 and was last updated in 1998. We can’t afford to wait any longer toreaffirm our commitment to higher education in this country and create a framework so thatour students are prepared to meet the challenges of this new century.
I am pleased that we are able to swiftly move to this bill after passage of the Higher EducationAccess Act of 2007 last Thursday. Together they make up our comprehensive highereducation package.
I thank my colleagues and particularly the work of Senator Enzi for ensuring that these twoparts are moving in tandem.
There is no doubt that the student aid in the Access Act is the single most important thing wecan do to increase access for college-ready low-income students. But it is also ourresponsibility to ensure that the multi-billion dollar investment of taxpayer dollars we’ve madeto student aid is delivered in the most equitable, effective, and simple way possible.This bill will take steps to ensure the greatest return on this investment by: addressing risingcollege costs; reforming the student loan system so it works for students, not banks;simplifying the federal aid application process; strengthening college preparation programslike GEAR-UP and TRIO; and promoting high-quality and effective teacher preparationprograms.
As we provide more aid to students, this bill recognizes that colleges need to do their part tokeep college costs down. The cost of college has more than tripled over the last twenty years.Today, average tuition, fees, and room and board at public colleges are almost $13,000 ayear¬ — and they’re more than $30,000 at private colleges.
The Higher Education Amendments of 2007 will hold colleges accountable for skyrocketingcollege costs by creating a nationwide watch list of colleges whose costs are increasing at arate greater than their peers, and by encouraging the Department of Education and colleges topublish more consumer-friendly information about college costs and programs.To ensure that this aid is directed to students -- its intended beneficiaries -- we must keepthem informed about their choices and hold colleges and lenders accountable for gettingstudents the best loan deal possible.
As investigations by New York Attorney General Cuomo, other states, and our Committee havefound, many lenders are entering into sweetheart deals with colleges. Some lenders offergifts to college and university employees in order to secure their students’ loan business.We’ve documented how lenders who participate in the federal student loan program offer“educational conferences” at luxury hotels, and offer free entertainment and free tickets tosporting events to college officials in order to entice those officials to recommend the lendersto their students. Our legislation makes these practices illegal, and protects students byensuring that when a college recommends a lender, it’s based on the best interest of studentsand nothing else.
To ensure students have access to the federal financial aid they are eligible for, we mustsimplify the financial aid process for all students by reforming the Free Application for FederalStudent Aid. As you can see here, the form is currently 10 pages long and includes over 100questions. This acts as a barrier to low- and middle-income students applying for the aid theyneed for college. Thanks to the leadership of Senator Reed and Senator Enzi, this bill willdramatically simplify the FAFSA and examine how we can streamline the federal financial aidprocess even more in the future.
Our bill will make the financial aid application process more student-friendly by immediatelycreating a new 2-page EZ-FAFSA for low-income students and phasing out the current longpaper FAFSA within 5 years. It will also create a pilot program that lets students know thatthey have access to federal aid for college earlier, by allowing students to receive an aiddetermination or estimate in their junior year of high school.Ensuring access to adequate grant aid is one component of solving the college access crisis,but we must also ensure that more students are graduating from high school ready to succeedin college. In 2001, colleges required one-third of all freshmen to take remedial courses inreading, writing, or math.
Because so many high school students are not learning the basic skills to succeed in college orwork, the nation loses more than $3.7 billion a year. This figure includes $1.4 billion to provideremedial education to students who have recently completed high school. In addition, thisfigure factors in the almost $2.3 billion that the economy loses because remedial readingstudents are more likely to drop out of college without a degree, thereby reducing theirearning potential.
This bill includes provisions championed by Senator Brown to maintain the strength of theTRIO and GEAR UP programs, which provide underprivileged students with the support theyneed to go to college and graduate from college.
The Higher Education Act of 1965 established The National Teachers Corps, a federally fundedGreat Society program to develop our nation’s teaching force. This bill continues that traditionby promoting high-quality and effective preparation programs for new and prospectiveteachers and recruiting and retaining high-quality teachers in high-need schools.
Finally, this bill will create a new student safety grant program to help colleges anduniversities improve their campus safety and emergency response systems. As the nightmareat Virginia Tech made us all too aware, tragedy can strike anywhere, including on collegecampuses.
This legislation received unanimous bipartisan support in Committee and I hope to see thatsame support demonstrated today. Our students cannot afford any alternative.
Summary of S. 1642: The Higher Education Amendments Act of2007
The Higher Education Amendments Act of 2007 reauthorizes the Higher Education Act,strengthening many of its provisions and including new provisions to address unethicalpractices in the student loan system and rising college costs.
Addressing Rising College Costs
The cost of college has tripled in the last twenty years, and many students and families arestruggling to keep up. The Higher Education Amendments Act addresses this issue by:
• Holding colleges accountable for rising costs by publicizing colleges whose costsincreases outstrip those of their peers; and• Ensuring students and parents have access to objective data about the cost ofcollege.Reforming the Student Loan System so it Works for Students, Not LendersRecent investigations have shown that lenders and even some financial aid officers havebeen exploiting the student loan system, to the detriment of the students they are meant tobe helping. The Higher Education Amendments will direct sunshine on this industry by:• Ensuring that colleges are recommending lenders based on the best interest ofstudents, not the self-interest of financial aid officers;• Prohibiting payments, gifts, and other inducements from lenders to colleges andfinancial aid administrators that create conflicts of interest; and• Requiring colleges to establish and follow a code of conduct with respect to studentloans.Simplifying the Financial Aid Process for all Students by Reforming the FAFSAThe Free Application for Federal Financial Aid (FAFSA) is currently seven pages long, andacts as a barrier to low- and middle-income students applying for the aid they need forcollege. The Higher Education Amendments will make the financial aid application processmore student-friendly by:• Immediately creating a new 2-page EZ-FAFSA for low-income students, and phasingout the current 7-page FAFSA for all applicants within 5 years; and• Facilitating student planning by creating a pilot program that allows students toreceive an aid determination or estimate in their junior year of high school.Strengthening GEAR-UP and TRIO to Improve Preparation for Higher EducationMany students, especially low-income and first-generation college students, struggle toprepare adequately for college. GEAR UP and TRIO are proven to help students prepare for,access, and succeed in higher education. The Higher Education Amendments:• Enable GEAR UP programs to offer early intervention and other activities, includingextended school day programs, encouraging student enrollment in challengingsecondary coursework, professional development, and dropout recovery;• Strengthen the required activities of Upward Bound programs and expand StudentSupport Services to include programs to improve students’ financial and economicliteracy; and• Require the Secretary to measure the quality and effectiveness of the Talent Search,Upward Bound, Student Support Services, Postbaccalaureate Achievement, andEducational Opportunity Centers programs.Promoting Innovative Models in Teacher Preparation ProgramsWe are facing a shortage of high-quality, well-prepared teachers, and it is often the needieststudents who suffer the most. The Higher Education Amendments will improve teacherquality, training and retention by:• Promoting high-quality and effective teacher preparation programs for new andprospective teachers, including effective preparation, induction, and residencyprograms; and• Helping high need schools, by focusing on recruiting and retaining high-qualityteachers in high-need schools.
Laura Burton Capps/ Melissa Wagoner (202) 224-2633