A number of bipartisan higher education bills have been passed by the House of Representatives in an effort to provide solutions to elements of the Higher Education Act currently in need of an update.
In all, five bills were passed by the House which address some of the issues within the Higher Education Act, including a simplification for the application for federal student aid, making information about colleges and universities readily accessible, and offering benefits for historically black colleges those who serve Hispanic students, reports Lauren Camera for US News.
“The bills we passed today are necessary improvements to the Higher Education Act,” said Rep. Bobby Scott of Virginia. “It is my hope that this package is the first of several steps we take toward delivering on a bipartisan and comprehensive reauthorization.”
One of the bills, sponsored by US Congressman Gregorio Kilili Camacho Sablan, seeks to help students and their families obtain the necessary information they need to choose a college. The bill will create a US Department of Education tool called the College Dashboard, which will be available online and will include key data pertaining to financial and economic statistics on universities across the country.
“Students in my district, the Marianas, cannot just hop in the car to drive around looking at colleges,” Sablan said, referring to a rite of passage for many mainland U.S. families with students getting ready to select a college.
“Instead, providing an easy to navigate, web-based tool with information about costs, financial aid, enrollment, graduation rates, and job prospects for graduates will help these students and families make the important decision about where to go to college.”
The standardization of such information for over 7,000 colleges and universities will allow families to more easily make side-by-side comparisons of colleges. In addition, putting the information online will make it more accessible for those who live in geographically remote locations.
Along similar lines, the “Empowering Students Through Enhanced Financial Counseling Act” seeks to help students make better financial decisions concerning their education through the promotion of financial literacy by offering counseling services to students who receive federal financial aid. The bill is currently waiting for consideration by the US Senate.
A separate bill would authorize $120 million for a grant program seeking to increase socioeconomic and racial diversity within schools through the “Stronger Together School Diversity Act.” Grants will be made available to school districts, regional educational authorities, and educational service agencies. The money will be used to fund and plan the implementation of several local efforts, including studies concerning the effects of segregation, plans to handle the issue, the creation of public school choice zones, and an increase to bus services, among other things.
Meanwhile, Senate leaders led by the chairman and ranking member of the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, Senators Lamar Alexander and Patty Murray, are looking to handle the Higher Education Act in its entirety through a single legislative overhaul.