08 Aug

Congress Reauthorizes the Higher Education Act—First Time in 10 Years!

Last week Congress passed another huge piece of legislation that may affect every college topic you can think of. Called the Higher Education Opportunity Act of 2008 (HEA 2008), the bill passed by 380 votes to 49 in the House and 83 to 8 in the Senate. I expect President Bush will likely sign it into law soon. The original Higher Education Act was established in 1965. Changes have been made throughout the years, but this version will be landmark legislation if our President signs it into law since 1998 was the last year Congress reauthorized the Act.

The HEA 2008 Changes

At approximately 1,150 pages, the new Higher Education Act isn’t exactly a light read. Here is some advance notice about provisions in the bill that will go into effect.

  • Making Pell Grants (grants for low-income students) available for all semesters, year-round
  • Reducing textbook costs by placing new restrictions on publishers
  • Causing colleges to report more in-depth information about their costs and pricing
  • Starting a federal watch list of colleges who raise their tuition and fees by a significant amount
  • Protecting students who take out private loans
  • Simplifying the FAFSA (the financial aid form for federal aid) to a 2 page “FAFSA-EZ” form for those who qualify to use it
  • Requiring colleges to disclose relationships between themselves and private lenders
  • Penalizing states that don’t spend the required amount on higher education
  • Forgivable loans for many new professions

Is it a Win-Win?

Legislators are already debating the HEA 2008’s merits and detriments. Some think it will serve its purpose well (reducing college costs), while others feel it will increase college costs in the long run because it will increase administrative expenses for schools due to scads of new mandatory reporting requirements.

The most controversial part of HEA 2008 at this point is its intervention in several areas not related to college funding. One example, it places a regulation on file-sharing of music and videos between students that could cost a lot for colleges to try to regulate.

In short, time will tell whether college students will actually benefit from the HEA 2008 or not. At first glance it looks promising to me. Congress will need to tweak it along the way, but all-in-all it appears to add protective features to the college funding process that should

Want to Read More?

HEA 2008 is all over the news, and there are plenty of pros and cons being discussed. Here are a few articles you might want to peruse for more in-depth info and the opportunity to form your own opinion-I will be writing more about this important topic once we know the legislation has become official.

All the best,
Deborah Fox

photo: U.S. Capitol Building by slonecker

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One Response to “Congress Reauthorizes the Higher Education Act—First Time in 10 Years!”

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    Pay for College Blog - Tips on reducing the cost of college Says:

    […] college legislation and student loan troubles all over the headlines, it seems like everyone wants to get in on the […]

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