While most college students are off enjoying their summer break, the House of Representatives is focusing on simplifying financial aid, improving Historically Black Colleges and Universities, and enabling greater access to higher education for minority students. Last week the House passed five bills, and while they aren’t law yet, each bill could have a serious impact on universities.
The House of Representatives provides an overview on the bills passed:
- The Strengthening Transparency in Higher Education Act (HR 3178), led by Higher Education and Workforce Training Subcommittee Chairwoman Virginia Foxx, R-N.C., and Gregorio Sablan, the delegate from the Northern Mariana Islands, will help students gain access to the facts they need to make an informed decision about where to pursue their education. For more information, click here.
- The Empowering Students Through Enhanced Financial Counseling Act (HR 3179), led by Reps. Brett Guthrie, R-Ky., and Suzanne Bonamici, D-Ore., will promote financial literacy by enhancing the timing, frequency, and content of counseling for all recipients of Federal financial aid. For more information, click here.
- The Simplifying the Application for Student Aid Act (HR 5528), led by Reps. Joe Heck, R-Nevada, and Jared Polis, D-Colo., will reform the Federal student aid process to help students make timely financial decisions about their education and better prepare for college. Among other measures, the bill will ensure students are able to use income data from two years prior when applying for aid and receive accurate aid information as soon as possible. For more information, click here.
- The Accessing Higher Education Opportunities Act (HR 5529), led by Heck and Rep. Ruben Hinojosa, D-Texas, will help students at Hispanic-Serving Institutions pursue a career as a physician, dentist, or other health care professional and enhance existing support for Hispanic students pursuing an education. For more information, click here.
- The HBCU Capital Financing Improvement Act (HR 5530), led by Reps. Alma Adams, D-N.C., and Bradley Byrne, R-Ala., will improve access to and oversight of an existing program that enables Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU) to improve their campuses to better serve their students. For more information, click here.
In his remarks Rep. John Kline, R-Minn., chairman of the chamber’s Committee on Education and the Workforce, explained, “We all know the tough challenges that exist. College costs continue to rise. A dizzying maze of student aid programs discourages students from pursuing a degree or credential. Complex Federal rules impede innovation and make it harder for students to pursue a degree more quickly and at less cost.”
While Kline hopes that these reforms will improve the application and financial aid process for students, the bills will also affect college administrators. Administrators from various offices in colleges will need to prepare for new processes, as well as confused students.
Additionally, HR 3178, which seeks to improve information gathering, will likely affect how schools are required to report various bits of student data to the Federal government. From information on college completion rates to average student loans for a specific university, Congress is trying to make important data more readily accessible for students; however, this will mean that universities will be accountable for providing accurate data in the correct manner.
Both HR 3179 and HR 5528 focus on financial literacy and financial aid. In the era of increasing student debt, the Education and the Workforce Committee wants to ensure that students know exactly what student loans are, how to apply for them, and how to repay the debt. Additionally, the Federal student loan process can often feel like a maze; however, HR 5528 simplifies the process for students. This will require that schools not only retrain their own staff, but be prepared for non-freshman students who are confused about the new process. This will require training time and budget, as well as potentially increasing staff for the peak financial aid application period.
Hispanic-Serving Institutes will have to keep an eye on HR 5529, which seeks to improve education opportunities in the health care field. This bill will likely result in increased funding for the institutes to improve support for students. Additionally, HR 5530 will have a great impact on HBCUs. HBCUs will have greater access to programs that enable capital improvements to their colleges and universities. Departments in charge of campus construction, capital projects, and long-term planning will want to keep a close eye on the bill. Additionally, schools will want to undertake studies to see where the construction can do the most good for their student body and long-term financial success.