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Senate sends pivotal higher education bill to President

Enzi coordinated years of negotiations to help students

July 31, 2008

Washington D.C. – For every Wyoming student considering the possibility of pursuing education at a university or community college, Congress’ passage of the Higher Education Opportunity Act (H.R. 4137) today lays the foundation for making their college dreams a reality, according to Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee Ranking Member U.S. Senator Mike Enzi, R-Wyo.

“This bill is a major victory for Wyoming’s students and their families because it will significantly improve higher education affordability, access and accountability.   Whether you’re a traditional student right out of high school, a parent going back to school or a worker seeking to boost your credentials, this legislation will help you,” Enzi said. 

“The knowledge and skills required to succeed in today’s ever-evolving, increasingly high-tech workplace have significantly changed, and American workers need to be prepared.  The economic security of Wyoming and our entire country relies upon how well we bridge the gap between the occupations of yesterday and the careers of the future.  The Higher Education Opportunity Act will help us to get there by providing our students with access to affordable higher education.”

Senate HELP Committee members and House Education and Labor Committee members led by Enzi, Senator Barbara Mikulski, D-Md., Rep. Buck McKeon, R-Calif., and Rep. George Miller, D-Calif., reached a final agreement on the legislation Tuesday night.  Congressional passage of the bill came today – a full 10 years after the last reauthorization of the Higher Education Opportunity Act.
Enzi, as the top Republican on the Senate’s HELP Committee, played a pivotal role in the development of the Higher Education Opportunity Act since the last reauthorization expired in Sept. 2004.  For more than four years, Enzi and his fellow committee members have been in negotiations with the House over a number of provisions within the bill. 

Improving Wyoming’s higher education opportunities

Among the important provisions for Wyoming, Enzi noted that the bill contains new requirements for greater transparency in college costs, which will be a major benefit to residents as they weigh their options for higher education.  The new requirements will provide for college price watch lists, Internet-based calculators that estimate the net cost of college, a Department of Education Web page that displays information about college costs, and greater disclosure of textbook costs. 

“Students will have better access than ever to important information about the costs of achieving their higher education goals, allowing them to make sound financial decisions for their futures,” said Enzi.

Enzi also cited the reduction of the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) form from 14 pages to only three as a big win for Wyoming residents seeking help to pay for their college educations.

“That 14-page form was intended to make it easier for students to attend college by assisting with financial aid, but it was far more of a hindrance than a help.  FAFSA had become just another example of our red tape-laden bureaucracy, and this bill changes that by tackling the complexity of the federal student aid system.  Now it will only take three quick pages to help many students get the financial assistance they need to pursue their educational dreams.”

Additionally, the Higher Education Opportunity Act’s authorization of year-round Pell grants will help students to accelerate their course of study by allowing grants to be used during summer sessions, Enzi said.  The bill also expands access to grant programs for part-time students.

“Non-traditional and community college students have improved options for funding their educations.  This bill recognizes that not every student chooses to attend a four-year university.”

The Higher Education Opportunity Act also includes provisions to:

  • Require colleges to establish Codes of Conduct to prohibit their financial aid employees from receiving anything of value in exchange for advantages sought by lenders.
  • Provide in-state tuition for members of the Armed Forces and their dependents who have lived in a state for more than 30 days.