Congress Passes Higher Education Reauthorization Bill
After five long years, Congress finally passed legislation to reauthorize the Higher Education Act. The new law (Pub. L. 110-315) , which was signed by the President on August 14, includes many positives for higher education, including:
- Increasing the purchasing power of Pell Grants by raising the maximum award to $6,000 (from $4,310), followed by increases of $400 in subsequent years to reach $8,000 in academic year 2014-2015.
- Addressing the growing crisis of affordable textbooks by balancing students' abilities to manage costs through advanced planning with respect for faculty's legitimate academic freedom concerns.
- Creating the Patsy T. Mink Fellowship Program to help minorities and women enter the professoriate.
- Authorizing scholarships, support programs, and counseling for community college students to help them stay in school and, when possible, enroll in a four-year school.
- Protecting collective bargaining rights.
- Rejecting any mention of "merit pay."
Unfortunately, the law also include the NEA-opposed "academic bill of rights," which opens the door for unwarranted government intrusion into classrooms and curriculum.
NEA still needs your help on several critical higher education issues:
A national trend over the last 30 years has seen the burden of financing higher education shift from the state to the student. Almost 65 percent of students graduating in 2003-04 took out loans to help pay for college. The average student debt burden in 2004 was almost 60 percent higher than the mid 1990's. Nearly two out of three college students owe an average of more than $19,000. And, 37 percent of graduates of public institutions and 55% of graduates from private institutions say their starting salaries are insufficient to repay college debt.
The cost of attending a public four-year college has almost doubled over the last 20 years. Every year, approximately 400,000 qualified high school graduates cannot afford to go on to college.
Last year, Congress passed the College Cost Reduction and Access Act. This helped to make the dream of higher education a reality for most low- and middle-income students. The legislation would implement several student loan program reforms designed to eliminate waste and mismanagement, but there's more work to do.
NEA needs your help on this issue.
Tell your U.S. Senators and Representatives: Help ensure that every qualified student can pursue the dream of higher education.
Current federal law prevents many talented undocumented immigrants who have lived much of their lives in the United States and have graduated from high school from pursuing higher education. Bipartisan legislation (the DREAM Act, H.R. 12754/S. 774) has been introduced in Congress to allow states to determine their own residency rules, thereby permitting them to offer in-state tuition and higher education benefits to undocumented students.
NEA supports this proposal.
Tell your U.S. Senators and Representatives to give talented students the opportunity to excel and contribute to our country by passing the DREAM Act.
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Letters to Congress