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Cole, House Republicans Introduce Bill to Expand Opportunities in Higher Education and Boost Minority Serving Institutions

September 9, 2003
Press Release

Washington, D.C. – Led by Rep. Tom Cole, Republican members of the U.S. House Education & the Workforce Committee yesterday evening introduced the Expanding Opportunities in Higher Education Act (H.R. 3039), the third in a series of bills being offered this year to renew and reauthorize the Higher Education Act (HEA).  The bill seeks to remove barriers for students striving for the dream of a higher education by boosting support for Minority Serving Institutions, strengthening programs such as TRIO and GEAR UP that help needy and non-traditional students, and reducing complexity in the federal student aid process to help students and families.

"The purpose of this legislation is to provide more opportunities for students to pursue a higher education. It is important to take a closer look at current regulations and barriers that could be eliminated in order to give more individuals, especially low and middle income individuals, the chance to earn a degree," said Cole, author of the legislation. "As a college graduate, a former educator and the parent of a college student, I believe that all students who want the chance to continue their education after high school deserve the chance to accomplish that goal. The Expanding Opportunities in Higher Education Act will open more doors to give students the freedom to continue learning."

The Expanding Opportunities in Higher Education Act works to bring higher education programs in line with the needs of students in the 21st century, removing outdated and unnecessary barriers and expanding flexibility to allow our higher education system to adapt to the unique needs of the postsecondary education population.

"I commend Tom Cole for offering this legislation on behalf of needy and non-traditional students.  Under Republican leadership, federal funding for Minority Serving Institutions and programs such as TRIO and GEAR UP is being dramatically increased.  This bill gives schools and students the flexibility they need to take full advantage of these federal resources, while reducing complex and cumbersome federal rules in student aid.  Rep. Cole deserves great credit for his leadership on this important issue for American students and families," said House Education & the Workforce Committee Chairman John Boehner (R-OH).

H.R. 3039 makes several improvements to current law that will not only assist students, but also encourage fair treatment of institutions and allow the institutions to better meet the changing needs of the students they serve. Following is a brief summary of some of the reforms included in the Expanding Opportunities in Higher Education Act.

  • Removing barriers and encouraging innovation: The Expanding Opportunities in Higher Education Act would remove outdated regulations arbitrarily applied to some institutions and not others, and would eliminate barriers to innovative educational opportunities such as distance education. These reforms will provide institutions of higher education with the freedom to provide better services, and will expand access for students.
  • Meeting the needs of Minority Serving Institutions: Because Minority Serving Institutions, such as Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) and Hispanic Serving Institutions (HSIs), play such a vital role in opening the doors of higher education, the bill seeks to provide additional flexibility, ease unnecessary restrictions, and extend the allowable use of funds to further assist them in serving their students. The legislation makes several improvements for Minority Serving Institutions (MSIs), including allowing MSIs to use funds to develop or improve their facilities for Internet use or other distance learning capabilities. This legislation will transfer the Tribal Colleges and Universities grant program to a formula grant in or to simplify the grant application process.
  • Supporting the programs that support students: For many low-income, non-traditional or first-generation college students, postsecondary education is a daunting prospect. Programs such as TRIO and GEAR UP, which provide support services and resources for these students and their families, make a real difference in making the dream of college a reality. H.R. 3039 recognizes the value of such programs, and would allow increased flexibility and freedom to serve the unique needs of students participating in these programs.
  • Simplifying federal student aid to help students and families: The Expanding Opportunities in Higher Education Act will commission a study to examine the federal financial aid formula and forms in order to simplify and streamline the programs to make our student aid system more friendly and responsive to student needs.

"An important part of expanding opportunities under this legislation will be to increase flexibility, improve federal financial support and simplify student aid programs. Filling out federal student aid applications is a tedious process, and a goal of this bill is to reduce that burden, which often discourages families from applying for federal assistance," said Cole.

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