Trying to keep college affordable

Federal funding for postsecondary education, legislated through the Higher Education Act (HEA), will desist during the 108th Congress.

The HEA is a piece of legislation, administered by the U.S. Department of Education, giving financial aid to students and educational institutions. In order to keep the needed financial aid flowing, Congress, bill by bill, is amending and reauthorizing the act. The long process began July 9, when the House passed the first bill contributing to the HEA’s reauthorization.

Since its enactment in 1965, the HEA has assisted college students, families and educational institutions in myriad ways. From giving students loans and grants to aid for improving K-12 teacher training at postsecondary institutions, the HEA gives billons each year to colleges and their students.

In fiscal year 2003, the HEA will give an estimated $44 billon to 15.9 million students in need of financial aid. That figure excludes the $32 billion given in fiscal year 2002 in Stafford Loans, which are issued for consolidating existing loans. The Pell Grant is need-based aid for undergraduate students, with 4.8 million students estimated to have received $11.7 billion from this grant in 2002.

The Federal Family Education Loan and the Direct Loan together gave out an estimated $44.3 billion in loans to students and their parents in 2003. The Federal Supplemental Opportunity Grants, Federal Work-Study and Federal Perkins Loans are estimated to have granted, paid out and loaned nearly $2 billion in fiscal year 2003.

These three programs are campus-based, where institutions receive the money from the federal government for allocation to students.

Congress will consider many issues that have directly affected PSU students while reauthorizing the HEA. As stated by the Congressional Research Service, some issues to consider are “college prices and the appropriate federal role in addressing increases and … effectiveness of the HEA programs in increasing postsecondary access.”

David Wu (D), a member of congress from Oregon’s 1st District, is working on the House Education Committee and is introducing six bills contributing to the re-authorization of the HEA.

“I have introduced six bills to improve the Higher Education Act that call for measures such as increasing Pell Grants, eliminating financial-aid waiting periods and reducing student loan debt,” Wu said. “I hope to add these bills as amendments to the Higher Education Act when it comes up before the Education Committee.”

To see the full text of Wu’s bills, go to

What does this all mean, legislative rhetoric aside? For Wu, it is “to make a college education affordable for every Oregon family.”

By the end of the 108th congress, students will financially feel whether or not college affordability is a result of the reauthorization of the HEA.