Washington, D.C. — Representative Raúl M. Grijalva, voted in support of legislation that would reform and strengthen the nation’s higher education programs to ensure that they operate in the best interests of students and families.
The legislation, The College Opportunity and Affordability Act (H.R. 4137), is a comprehensive reauthorization of the Higher Education Act, the primary law aimed at expanding college access for low and middle-income students. Rep. Grijalva, as a member of the House Education and Labor Committee, included language in the base bill.
“I am proud of the legislation passed by the House today,” stated Grijalva. “It is done in bipartisan fashion and is in favor of students, families, and ensures consumer rights in higher education. This reauthorization ensures that higher education is accessible, accountable, and possible.”
The bill would address these rising prices by encouraging colleges to rein in price increases, ensuring that states maintain their commitments to higher education funding, and providing students and families with consumer friendly information on college pricing and the factors driving tuition increases. The legislation also strengthens provisions previously approved by the House to avoid conflicts of interest in the student loan programs. The bill’s new provisions also include requiring better consumer disclosures and protections on private student loans.
The base bill highlighted several provisions drafted by Rep. Grijalva including establishing a demonstration program and Commission on instructional materials accessibility for college students with print-disabilities. The National Federation of the Blind and the American Association of Publishers both supported this provision.
Additionally, Rep. Grijalva successfully expanded the eligibility requirements for Academic Competitiveness Grants (ACG) and National Science and Mathematics Access to Retain Talent (SMART Grants) to part-time students and legal permanent residents. Under current law, over 7 million community college students are automatically excluded from ACG eligibility just because they are part-time. At Pima Community College in Tucson, AZ, only one student out of 898 students identified for ACG received the grant in 2006.
During the committee markup, Rep. Grijalva included an amendment to change the cohort default rate (CDR) calculation window for student loans was also included in the bill. This would require student loan counseling by lenders, the Department of Education, and colleges on appropriate repayment options for students.
The CDR change requires the Department of Education to look at three years instead of just two years when calculating the default rate for colleges who receive federal aid. This one- year extension will ensure that students will continue to receive the necessary assistance and information to remain in good standing and avoid default. The CDR informs Congress and the Department about retention rates, debt burden, and taxpayer costs among other indicators of school performance.
“There must be accountability in how we address higher education practices in this country,” said Grijalva. “It is not enough to just accurately inform us about how well colleges and lenders are supporting our students both during college and after graduation. Institutions play a very critical role in assisting borrowers to avoid the damaging consequences of default. Congress has already enacted legislation to provide an additional $20 billion in financial aid to make college more affordable. This legislation will build on that effort by reducing or eliminating many of the obstacles that prevent fully qualified students from going to college.”
In addition, the College Opportunity and Affordability Act would:
Streamline the federal student financial aid application process;
Make textbook costs more manageable for students by helping them plan for textbook expenses in advance of each semester;
Allow students to receive year-round Pell Grant scholarships;
Establish numerous loan forgiveness and repayment assistance programs for people who chose jobs in areas of public need;
Strengthen college readiness programs;
Increase college aid and support programs for veterans and military families;
Improve safety on college campuses and help schools recover and rebuild after a disaster;
Ensure equal college opportunities and fair learning environments for students with disabilities; and
Strengthen our nation’s workforce and economic competitiveness by boosting science, technology, and foreign language educational opportunities.