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Higher Education Bill Passed by House Offers Help for Latinos, Says Caucus

A bill passed by the House of Representatives on Feb. 7 will expand access to higher education for minority students, the Congressional Hispanic Caucus said in a statement praising the move.

The College Opportunity and Affordability Act of 2007, which passed by a vote of 354 to 58, will help students by addressing the rising cost of attending college, protecting borrowers of student loans, simplifying the application process for federal aid and making text book costs manageable, the caucus said.

“We need to invest in our students if we want them to succeed, and this bill does just that,” said Rep. Joe Baca, Democrat of California, chair of the CHC. “Now, students who want to take classes year-round will be eligible for Pell Grants in the summer as well. This is vital to those students in our community who are juggling work, family and other obligations, while still trying to make a better life for themselves.”

Rep. Rubén Hinojosa, Democrat of Texas, chair of the caucus’ Education Task Force and of the House Subcommittee on Higher Education, Lifelong Learning and Competitiveness, noted that Hispanic Americans were the largest minority group in the United States but continued “to have the lowest levels of education attainment of any group in the country.”

“It is a gap that must be eliminated if the United States is to maintain its competitive edge,” Hinojosa said. “This legislation takes us in the right direction. It makes college more affordable and accessible for Hispanic families and invests in the institutions that serve them.”

Rep. Baca also noted that the bill would create a graduate program for Hispanic-serving institutions (HSIs), increase funding for such schools and promote programs in science, technology, engineering, and math or STEM fields.

“These steps will make these institutions more competitive with other colleges and universities in the U.S. and abroad,” he said.

The legislation, known as H.R. 4137, extends the Higher Education Act of 1965. Similar legislation has not yet passed the U.S. Senate.

–Diverse Staff

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