The Congressional Hispanic Caucus (CHC) applauded the passage of the Higher Education Reauthorization Act, H.R. 4137, on July 31 by a vote of 380-49 in the House and 83-8 in the Senate. The bill now heads to the President’s desk to be signed into law.
Both houses had passed versions of the bill and sent them to a conference to resolve differences. The conference was then approved in each house on Thursday. The act, which gives most federal college programs the authority to operate for five years, was last renewed in 1998.
“Today, for the first time in 10 years, we reauthorized the Higher Education Act, with historic gains for Latinos families and (Hispanic Serving Institutions) across the country,” said U.S, Representative Joe Baca, D-Calif., chair of the CHC. “We are opening the doors for more people to achieve success in their pursuit of higher education. Furthermore, with the authorization of $100 million for Graduate Programs in HSI’s, we help elevate these institutions to new levels and raise their status in the higher education community.”
The caucus said the act would bring “tremendous improvements to the Pell Grant and Federal Work-Study programs, simplify the financial aid process” and strengthen other programs.
“As a veteran, I would be remiss to not mention the monumental benefits for our men and women who have served in the armed forces,” Representative Baca said. “The establishment of veteran student scholarship programs and requiring the Department of Education to coordinate a website to provide direct information to military members and their families will help our service members achieve their higher education dreams.”
U.S. Representative Ruben Hinojosa, D-Texas, chair of the CHC Education Task Force and of the House Subcommittee on Higher Education, said the bill put “smart strategies in place to make sure that more first-generation, minority students have an opportunity to pursue a college education.”
“Our efforts to raise the Pell Grant and streamline our student aid process will make college more affordable and accessible to all Hispanic families,” Representative Hinojosa added.
“We have also made historic investments in Hispanic Serving Institutions, which educate almost half of all Hispanics attending college,” Hinojosa continued. “For the first time ever, we have set aside funding for graduate programs at HSI’s, which will go a long way toward improving the educational attainment of Hispanics across the nation.”
“This legislation is a huge win for our community, and I urge the President to quickly sign this bill into law,” he said.
U.S. Representative Raul M. Grijalva, D-Ariz., vice-chair of the CHC and a member of the House Education and Labor Committee, said, “High college prices and other obstacles are putting a college degree further out of reach for our students. The Higher Education Opportunity Act will reform our higher education system, provide more for Hispanic Serving Intuitions, invest in programs ….and keep our promise of making college more affordable for America’s low and middle-income families.”
U.S. Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison, (R-TX), also applauded passage of the higher education act.
“These institutions are vital to ensuring that all Texans have the opportunity to advance their education. These grants will provide improved resources for Hispanic students in graduate and professional degree programs.”
She cited the program to provide competitive grants for HSI graduate schools that can be used for scholarships, fellowships and financial assistance to students, renovations in classrooms, laboratories, and instructional facilities, faculty training and development, and the purchase of new educational materials.
“I applaud Hiss for their vast contributions in providing quality educational opportunities to all Hispanic and non-Hispanic students who attend their institutions,” said Senator Hutchison. “And I remain committed to opening the doors of higher education to all Americans, and keeping our country competitive in the global marketplace.”
Hutchison noted that the bill also incorporates new requirements for greater transparency in college costs, increases the authorizations of the maximum Pell grant, expands loan forgiveness programs, includes measures to simplify the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), provides in-state tuition for the dependents of members of the Armed Forces who have lived in a state for more than 30 days, and includes numerous new programs to enhance teacher quality.
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