Congress Passes Higher Education Act
by EmilyThe 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 provision relates to the bill's intended purpose of dealing with education funding and federal student financial aid.
Aspects of the HEA that have been praised are the allowance for a substantial increase in Federal Pell Grants (awards could reach $6,000 next year and $8,000 per year by 2014), the adoption of a code of conduct for financial aid offices when dealing with student loan agencies, the mandated simplification of the FAFSA (a two-page "FAFSA EZ" form should debut soon), and the general push for increased transparency regarding college costs, ranging from tuition increases, to student fees, to textbook prices. All of these changes should make it easier for families to pay for school.