You are hereCongressional News from ACTE
Congressional News from ACTE
For the first time in 10 years, Congress has approved a new version of the Higher Education Act. As reported in ACTE’s last legislative update, a deal was imminent in the last week of July. However, at that time, final action wasn’t expected until September. Since then, several procedural issues were cleared, and Members of Congress wanted at least a small victory before the August recess.
The conference committee met to negotiate differences between the respective House- and Senate-passed bills on Tuesday, July 29, 2008 to iron out the final issues. On Thursday, July 31, 2008, the House adopted the agreed-upon conference report, the new Higher Education Opportunity Act (H.R. 4137), on a 380-49 vote. Later that same day, the Senate voted to approve it 83-8. The final bill is now on the President’s desk and is expected to be signed into law later this week.
The new Higher Education Opportunity Act addresses a broad range of issues, largely focusing on financial aid for postsecondary students and teacher education. It has gotten mixed reviews from many within the higher education community, but there is a general feeling of relief that work is finally complete. ACTE will be analyzing the over 1,100 pages of legislation in the coming weeks and providing you with detailed information on how the changes affect CTE programs, but here are a few highlights of the bill, both positive and negative:
The bill raises the ceiling on the maximum Pell Grant to $8,000, subject to Congressional appropriations, and allows for students to receive Pell Grant funds year round, instead of just during the traditional academic year. Allowing students to receive Pell Grants year round should be particularly beneficial for the average CTE student, who may need to take courses throughout the year.
*The bill makes changes to Academic Competitiveness Grants, including making them available to part-time students and those seeking certificates. It also leaves the decision about which high school programs qualify up to state officials, instead of the U.S. Secretary of Education.
* The bill creates a total of over 60 new programs, including four that ACTE had advocated for: Student Success Grants, Business-Workforce Partnership Grants, College Partnership Grants and Bridges from Jobs to Careers Grants.
* The bill makes numerous changes to simplify the federal student aid process, including making it easier for students to get aid information, and shortening the free application for federal student aid from seven pages to two.
* The bill creates many new federal reporting and regulatory requirements dealing with textbooks, tuition and fees, cost of attendance, alumni activities, foreign gift reporting, fire safety, graduation rates, drug violations, vaccines and peer-to-peer file sharing. According to the American Council on Education, “Complying with these requirements will be time-consuming and inevitably will increase administrative and personnel costs on campuses.”
* The bill consolidates three teacher education programs into one single program for training and professional development and raises standards for teacher education programs.
* The bill makes further changes to federal student loan programs, aiming to crack down on conflicts of interest and tighten regulation of private loans.