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Reauthorized Higher Education Act means numerous changes.

WASHINGTON -- New grant programs, steady increases in Pell Grants, more public information for students on the cost of education they are among provisions included in the mammoth Higher Education Opportunity Act passed by Congress.

The reauthorization also changes many rules community colleges and governments are going to have to learn to handle.

Following are some of the changes embodied in the new law:

New Web Information

Within a year, the U. S. Department of Education will have to create a comprehensive website containing financial aid and planning information and linked to the department's main website. The new website will include information about financial aid available from other federal and state agencies.

The department will also have to create a higher education pricing summary page on the site with information pertaining to colleges' costs, starting in the 2011-12 academic year.

The information will include costs based on financial aid and students' income categories. The department will be required to update it annually to consider inflation.

The department will also provide each college participating in the Direct Loans program with a model disclosure form for students. The federal government is not alone when it comes to new information that must be provided to students. Colleges will have to provide incoming students with "nonbinding" cost estimates for future years. Institutions can get exemptions by showing extenuating circumstances, such as economic distress or a major cut in federal aid.

The department will create a calculator for colleges to figure anticipated price changes based on changes in the three previous years.

Cost of Textbooks

Textbook publishers will have to give faculty information about wholesale and retail prices, copyright dates of the three pervious editions of the works and any substantial differences in content among editions.

Publishers also have to tell professors if revisions are available in any other format. The law also outlaws mandatory bundling of products to Title IV schools.

In addition, the Government Accountability Office will study programs designed to reduce costs of materials, such as buyback and rental programs.

Pell Grants

The maximum Pell Grant will rise to $6,000 for the 2009-10 academic year and by $400 in each of the next five years to $8,000 in 2014-15. The legislation also establishes a minimum award of 10 percent of the maximum.

The bill also allows year-round Pell Grants for students enrolling at least half-time--including those in certificate programs.

The bill eliminates the expected family contribution for any Pell-eligible student whose parent or guardian died as a member of the military in Iraq or Afghanistan after Sept. 11, 2001, if the student was 24 years old or younger or enrolled in college upon the death.

Lender Restrictions

Colleges entering into preferred lender arrangements are prohibited from allow the lender to use the institution's name or likeness in a manner implying endorsement of the college or affiliated groups.

Colleges and affiliates also must disclose any relationships with lenders in all documents pertaining to loans. Lenders will have to report annually on their compliance with the rules.

Lenders also must inform students of terms and conditions of the loans, including interest rates, repayment plans, early repayment options, conditions of deferment and forbearance, collection practices, fees and late payment penalties and any other information the Education Department may require.

Lenders will also have to report to the Department of Education on any expenses they paid college financial aid officers. The department will compile the information and report to Congress.

Loan Changes

When borrowers get deferments on unsubsidized Stafford Loans, lenders will have to inform them of the impact and how much interest they will have to pay later. Lenders who transfer loans will also have to tell borrowers exactly when to start paying the new institution.

Also, all lenders, holders and loan servicers must tell borrowers at the start of repayment about options and conditions under which borrowers may lose eligibility.

The law also requires colleges to work with guarantee agencies to teach students, through materials and instruction, about budgeting and financial management.

All federal loans become discharged if a student dies or becomes "permanently and totally disabled."

Perkins Loans get $300 million for fiscal year 2009. When calculating a college's average cost of attendance for allocating its "fair share," the allowance for books and supplies increases from $450 to $500. Loan limits for undergraduates rise from $4,000 to $5,500.

New Rules

The law prohibits the federal government from creating a database of personally identifiably student information, except for systems needed to operate student aid programs.

All public colleges will have to charge in-state rates to members of the armed forces and their dependents if they lived in the state a month and to continue the rate even if the service member moves out of state.

Program Changes

The Special Leveraging Educational Assistance Partnership program gets replaced by a Grants for Access and Persistence (GAP) program, authorized at $200 million for fiscal year 2009 and unspecified sums in future years.

States will have to use the grant money to augment existing funding. States will have to track students who receive grants, which may not exceed cost of attendance. States will have to explain in their applications how they will ensure students earn their degrees.

States also must employ a method to identify low-income students in grades seven through 12, and inform them about the grants. States may also set time limits for degree completion for students getting funds.

To receive funding under the College Access Challenge Grant program, states will have to demonstrate their support of higher education by providing funding equal to or exceeding their average outlays of the previous five years. States can apply for waivers because of sudden and unforeseen declines in their budgets. The formula includes a clause for states with biennial budgets.

Teacher Preparation

The bill allows community colleges to qualify as "partner institutions" in the Teacher Quality Enhancement program if they work with four-year colleges to offer bachelors' degrees. The parties will have to sign formal agreements that include transfer policies.

Grant recipients will have the additional responsibility of demonstrating how research and data can be used to improve instruction. Applications will also have to show how they plan to train teachers to work with students with disabilities and with limited English proficiency. And they will have to establish evaluation plans with "strong and measurable performance objectives," including how well teachers learn to use technology.

The bill also requires a new report from all college teacher preparation programs receiving any Higher Education Act aid.

Such colleges will have to report annually and publicly on their programs and alternative routes to state certification. The "report cards" must include pass rates and scores for teachers who are taking or have completed a program, giving the number and percentages of trainees who pass and average scores.

The report cards must also state how the programs align with the state's academic content standards required under the No Child Left Behind Act.

States also are charged with identifying "low-performing programs of teacher preparation" and provide them technical assistance.

New Funding

The bill creates some new programs but does not specify all funding levels, leaving it up to the annual appropriations process.

A Teach to Reach program authorizes competitive grants to partnerships of college education departments working with high-need school districts to help general education teacher candidates work with students with disabilities. Grants can last up to five years, and require a 25 percent match.

Two new grant programs are aimed at non-tribal institutions serving Native Americans and to Asian American and Native American Pacific Islander-Serving Institutions. Grantees can use funds for a variety of purposes, including acquiring scientific equipment, renovation, faculty exchanges and curriculum development

Two other new initiatives--Programs in STEM Fields and YES Partnership Grants--will provide grants of at least $500,000 to consortia involving institutions of higher education, school districts and community groups. Projects must provide experience to youth in science, technology, engineering and mathematics. Grantees must provide a 50 percent match.

Another new program--Loan Forgiveness for Service in Areas of National Need--forgives loans to borrowers employed as early childhood teachers, nurses, foreign language specialists, librarians, child welfare workers, speech-language pathologists, audiologists, national service workers, school counselors, government employees, nutritionists, medical specialists school administrators and highly qualified teachers. Borrowers using this program cannot get forgiveness under any other federal program.

Another forgiveness program--Loan Repayment for Civil Legal Assistance Attorneys--applies to those working in that field. It excludes PLUS Loans from forgiveness and caps total loan forgiveness at $10 million.

Tribal Programs

The legislation also allows tribal and Alaska Native and Native Hawaiian-serving colleges to use federal money for education and counseling to help students and families with financial and economic literacy. Tribal colleges can also use federal funds to develop distance education technologies.

And the bill attempts to strengthen the Historically Black College and University Capital Financing program.


The federal government is not alone when it comes to new information that must be provided to students. Colleges will, too.
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Title Annotation:dateline Washington
Author:Pekow, Charles
Publication:Community College Week
Date:Aug 25, 2008
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