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Landmark Higher Education Bill, with Six Yarmuth Provisions, Passes House


Bill to make college more affordable is expected to pass Senate tonight, and go to President’s desk to be signed into law

(Washington, D.C.) Today, the House of Representatives passed the landmark Higher Education Opportunity Act, reauthorizing and expanding the Higher Education Act, which expired in 2003 and is the primary law aimed at expanding college access for low- and middle-income students. As a member of the Education and Labor Committee, Congressman John Yarmuth (KY-3) successfully fought to include six of his initiatives in the final conference report.  Those provisions will help students succeed, aid students with special needs, forgive loans of public servants, create centers of excellence for veterans, and revolutionize the way technology is used in the classroom.

“There is no greater way to impact the future of our country than by ensuring that all our children receive the highest quality education,” Yarmuth said.  “This bill will offer millions of students from grade school to college the tools and opportunity to reach their fullest potential and build a successful future.”

The new bill will rein in tuition hikes at colleges and universities, clean up corrupt practices in student loan programs, protect students from aggressive lender marketing practices, and require better consumer disclosures and protections on private student loans.  In addition, the bill will streamline the federal financial aid application process, make textbook costs more manageable, allow students to receive year-round Pell Grant scholarships, strengthen college readiness programs, and increase college aid and support programs for veterans and military families. 

Yarmuth’s six initiatives are detailed below:

Teach to Reach Grants- offered as amendment to the House bill on 2/7/2008

  • Creates grants to train general education teachers at the primary and secondary levels to more effectively teach students with disabilities, such as autism, ADD, and dyslexia.
  • Give teachers the tools required to meet the needs of all their students.

This program is endorsed by Jefferson County Schools Superintendent Sheldon Berman, the National Education Association, the American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education, the Higher Education Consortium for Special Education, and many organizations that advocate for the education of students with disabilities.

$10,000 Loan Forgiveness for Public Servants – Introduced 6/25/07

  • Provides $2,000 of annual loan forgiveness five years to teachers, nurses, librarians, national service participants, school counselors, medical, mental health, and nutrition professionals, and other public servants. 

Revolutionizing Education through Digital Investment Act – Introduced 9/20/07

  • Improves and modernizes the way technology is used in the classroom. 
  • Establishes a non-profit National Center for Learning Science and Technology that will focus on research and development in education and training.  
  • Transform America’s education, workplace training, and lifelong learning through the development of technologies, in the same way that comparable technologies have already transformed the nation’s economy, communications and financial systems, national defense, and people’s everyday lives.

“Despite the multitude of new technologies that are available to us, we have yet to scratch the surface of what we can do in the classroom to ensure that America’s children stay ahead of the curve.  This measure creates a system that will not only implement the technology we have, but also a framework to keep pace as new technologies are developed,” Yarmuth said.

Partnership Grants for Literacy Coach Training

  • Enables universities to seek partnership grants for literacy training.
  • Addresses the demand for high quality literacy coaches in our schools and lays the professional development groundwork for the Striving Readers Act (which Yarmuth introduced in April). 

Student Success Grants  – H.R. 3450 introduced 8/3/07

  • Provides students with mentoring and guidance to help attain college degree.
  • Begins to fix 55 to 1 ratio of college access aid to college success aid.
  • Schools where at least 50 percent of students test into remedial education will be eligible for $1,500 grants for every Pell recipient.
  • Funding will be provided to Success Coordinators, college and career success courses, work-study opportunities in students’ fields of study, better instructional support, and learning communities that cluster students to create a more constructive learning environment.

Centers of Excellence in Veteran Student Success
(introduced with Higher Education Subcommittee Chairman Ruben Hinojosa)

  • Develops a new grant program to establish support centers for veterans.
  • Centers will provide academic guidance and mental health support to ensure that veterans make a smooth transition from the battlefield to the classroom.

The Higher Education Opportunity Act is a continuation of Yarmuth’s commitment to increasing the accessibility and affordability of college following the College Cost Reduction Act, which increased student financial aid by $20 billion, and the New GI Bill for the 21st century, both of which he cosponsored.

“Our nation’s economic future begins in our schools,” Yarmuth added.  “For decades, America led the global marketplace because our educational achievements outpaced other nations.  This legislation will help us regain our competitive edge and strengthen our economy.”