The House of Representatives passed five higher education bills yesterday that aim to improve the financial aid process, enhance consumer information and strengthen federal programs that support the work of minority-serving institutions such as Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) and Hispanic-Serving Institutions.
The measures include:
The Simplifying the Application for Student Aid Act (H.R. 5528), which is designed to ease the process of applying for federal student aid and give prospective students a clearer idea of the aid they are eligible for much earlier in the process. The bill would allow students to apply for financial aid based on their family’s income from two years earlier instead of the immediately previous year, a long-sought approach known as “prior-prior year.” This means that the financial aid process would be changed so that students can submit their FAFSA form as early as October for the academic year beginning following summer or fall, codifying into law an initiative the Obama administration announced last fall.
The HBCU Capital Financing Improvement Act (H.R. 5530), which is intended to improve access to and oversight of an existing program that enables HBCUs to improve their campuses to better serve their students.
The Accessing Higher Education Opportunities Act (H.R. 5529) would expand the allowable use of Higher Education Act Title V funds to 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 their education.
The final two bills—the Strengthening Transparency in Higher Education Act (H.R. 3178) and the Empowering Students Through Enhanced Financial Counseling Act (H.R. 3179)—would help students make more informed decisions about where to pursue their education and how to manage their federal financial aid.
ACE and 20 other higher education associations sent a letter to the House Education and the Workforce Committee in advance of its June 22 approval of the bill, writing that they “appreciate the sponsors’ efforts to help students and their families and are eager to collaborate with them to improve these bills and strike the appropriate balance in meeting those goals.”
But further action on the bills this year is unlikely, as the Senate is not expected to take them up.