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Senate Passes Higher Education Reauthorization, Extends Current Law

On July 24, the Senate approved, 95-0, the Higher Education Amendments Act, a bill (S. 1642) to reauthorize the Higher Education Act (P.L. 105-244). The Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee approved the legislation on June 20 (see The Source, 6/22/07).

Sponsored by Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-MA), S. 1642 would establish the Patsy T. Mink graduate fellowship program to encourage women and minorities to become professors; increase the Pell Grant maximum award to $6,300 by 2012; simplify the process by which students can apply for federal financial aid; and expand eligibility for the National Science and Mathematics Access to Retain Talent (SMART) grant program in science, technology, engineering, math, and critical foreign languages.

Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA) stated, “I am pleased to vote for the Higher Education Reauthorization Act because it will open the doors of college to more students across the country…I am especially pleased that the bill includes my proposal to train math and literacy coaches in colleges of education. As I have been working to improve our schools, I have recognized that we need to provide additional support to students in math and reading. By addressing those areas, we can improve the graduation rate and help students graduate prepared for college and careers.”

Sen. Mike Enzi (R-WY) said, “The founder of the Grameen Bank got a Nobel Peace prize for the work he has been doing loaning money to poor people…His first loan was for 27 cents to a lady who was then able to go into a weaving business. But the point I want to make is that the reason a lot of people aren’t able to get loans is because they do not have any collateral. Students fall into that category, unless their parents have money. The student doesn’t have money, and the student doesn’t have collateral. So what we have provided for in the United States, through the Higher Education Act, both the reconciliation [the College Cost Reduction Act (H.R. 2669)] and this act, is a mechanism for people who don’t have collateral but just have that collateral of desire; that collateral of a work ethic to be able to get loans and grants to be able to go on to college.

That same day, the Senate also passed, by unanimous consent, a bill (S. 1868) to extend the current Higher Education Act (HEA) until October 31 while Congress completes its reauthorization. The House passed, by voice vote, the bill on July 25, sending the measure to the president for his signature. Congress cleared the previous extension (S. 1704), set to expire on July 31, on June 27 (see The Source, 6/29/07). The Higher Education Act last was reauthorized in 1998.

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