Higher Education

Issue Brief and Resources

The Higher Education Act (HEA) includes federal student aid programs, such as Pell Grants, and support for teacher education programs. After years of delays, Congress approved a new reauthorization on July 31, 2008.

Why is This Important to Your School District?

Title II of the Higher Education Act authorizes grants aimed at strengthening teacher quality by improving teacher education programs and assisting districts in their teacher recruitment and retention efforts. This is crucial since teacher quality is the greatest school-related factor in raising student achievement.

What to Tell Congress: NSBA's Position

NSBA was generally pleased with the reforms included in Title II, including a streamlined focus on partnership grants that directly involve local districts, stepped up accountability for teacher preparation programs, the addition of teacher residency programs that will pair prospective teachers with a mentor in hard-to-staff schools, and an emphasis on recruiting teachers for shortage areas. In negotiating differences between the House and Senate versions, the conference committee included more than a dozen NSBA recommendations in the final bill, including emphasizing preparation of general education and special education teachers to effectively instruct children with disabilities and to participate in IEP teams, and including programs offering alternative routes to teacher certification as an allowable partner for the grants. For more information see NSBA’s letter on the HEA bill.

The bill also increases authorization levels for Pell Grants from $4,800 to $6,000 in 2009 and up to $8,000 by 2014, and makes Pell Grants available year-round for low-income students. The measure also simplifies the federal student aid application process.

What's Happening Now in Congress?

The House passed H.R. 4137, the "Higher Education Opportunity Act," by a vote of 380 – 49 on July 31, 2008. The Senate approved the bill the same day on an 83 – 8 vote. The bill went to President Bush for his signature and was signed into public law (110-315) on August 14, 2008.

Additional Resources

NSBA Issue Brief: Higher Education
NSBA's position on legislation affecting higher education, including federal student aid programs and teacher education programs.

NSBA's Letter to Congress: July 30, 2008
Re: H.R. 4137, the “Higher Education Opportunity Act”

NSBA's Letter to Conference Committee: July 29, 2008
Re: Conference Committee Action on H.R. 4137, the Higher Education Opportunity Act

NSBA's Letter to House and Senate Education Committees: April 21, 2008
Re: Conference negotiations on the Higher Education Act (H.R. 4137 / S. 1642)

NSBA's Letter to the U.S. House of Representatives: February 6, 2008
Re: H.R. 4137, the College Opportunity and Affordability Act of 2007

NSBA's Letter to House Committee on Education and Labor: November 13, 2007
Re: Mark-Up of H.R. 4137, the College Opportunity and Affordability Act of 2007.

NSBA's Letter to the U.S. Senate: July 23, 2007
Re: Higher Education Act, S. 1642

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