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House Panel Approves Bill to Reauthorize Higher Education Act

On November 15, the House Education and Labor Committee approved, 44-0, the College Opportunity and Affordability Act (H.R. 4137), after adopting, by voice vote, a manager’s amendment by Chair George Miller (D-CA). The Senate passed its version of the reauthorization bill, the Higher Education Amendments Act (S. 1642), on July 24 (see The Source, 7/27/07). H.R. 4137 would reauthorize programs under the Higher Education Act (P.L. 105-244) for the first time since 1998.

Sponsored by Rep. Miller, the bill would authorize the secretary of the Department of Education to enter into contracts with advertising agencies to implement a campaign to encourage individuals to pursue careers in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). The campaign would be designed to help determine the factors that limit the participation of women, Latinos, and African Americans in STEM fields, and would make outreach to those groups a high priority.

The bill would establish the Patsy T. Mink Fellowship program to provide awards to women and minorities who pursue terminal masters or doctorate degrees for the purpose of becoming professors. Recipients of fellowship awards would be required to teach one year for every year they received the fellowship award.

The measure also would increase the Pell Grant maximum award from $5,800 to $9,000 per year, authorize a year-round Pell Grant program so that low-income students could receive a Pell award for more than two semesters or three quarters, and simplify the process by which students and families apply for financial assistance.

During the consideration of the bill, the committee approved, by voice vote, an amendment by Rep. Ric Keller (R-FL) that would prohibit sex offenders who are institutionalized after their imprisonment from receiving Pell Grants, and an amendment by Rep. Danny Davis (D-IL) that would create a grant program for inmates to receive a college education.

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