Monday, April 21, 2008

While HEA Conference Continues, House Passes Student Loan Bill

The House and Senate remain engaged in a conference on their respective proposals to reauthorize the Higher Education Act (H.R. 4137/S. 1642), and staff reports that while meetings continue and the negotiations are making progress, it is unlikely that the conference can be completed and the result considered by the House and Senate before the end of the month. It seems the new unofficial target for enactment of the legislation is the Memorial Day recess.

While HEA reauthorization moves closer to enactment, last week there was action on higher education policy in the House. To legislatively address what many see as a potential crisis in federal student loans, the House of Representatives passed H.R. 5715, the "Ensuring Continued Access to Student Loans Act," by an overwhelming margin of 383-27.

During floor debate of the measure, members commended Rep. George Miller (D-Calif.), House Education and Labor Committee chairman, and Rep. Buck McKeon (R-Calif.), ranking member, for acting on student loan access issues now vs. "waiting on a crisis," and the debate on the bill reinforced the bipartisan nature of the legislation. The bill would make a number of changes to the federal student loan programs to ease some credit eligibility requirements for families adversely affected by the country's mortgage crisis, increase access to loan capital for lenders and make changes to loan limits to ease the financial burdens students and families face. A similar measure has been introduced in the Senate.

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