House Redo of Higher Ed Act Calms College Lobbyists

    While the revamps to the Higher Education Act have eased the outcry of college groups, many still remain skeptical of the legislation’s effectiveness as it moves into the U.S. Senate.

    The American Council on Education wrote three letters to members of the U.S. House of Representatives last week expressing its support for last-minute changes made to a bill, passed on March 30, that overhauled federal Pell Grants and introduced new federal reporting requirements for institutions of higher education.

    While the House also made several other significant alterations to the bill that led student groups and A.C.E. to drop formal opposition to its passage, the council still expressed several desires for more changes.

    “We are disappointed that the bill fails to enhance and strengthen the Pell Grant program and restore the value of this essential need-based aid by providing a more generous increase in the maximum award level,” the organization wrote in one of the letters.

    The National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities voiced a similar stance.

    “While flaws remain, significant improvements were made to the bill over the past week,” NAICU President David L. Warren stated in a press release.

    Members of A.C.E. also expressed concerns about privacy provisions of the bill in a strongly worded third letter about Rep. Steve King’s (R-Iowa) amendment to the bill, which would have required institutions of higher education to report admissions factors including race, grades, test scores and sex. King’s proposal lost by a wide margin, with 142 Republicans joining Democrats in opposition.

    The final version of the bill, known as the College Access and Opportunity Act of 2005, allows students to receive Pell Grants year-round and repeals the federal limits on the amount of Pell Grant aid a student attending low-cost schools can receive.

    It also forces the top 5 percent of colleges deemed to have excessively raised student fees for three consecutive years to form committees to explore ways to reduce costs.

    Readers can contact Matthew McArdle at [email protected].

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