Education: Murray Applauds Senate Passage of Higher Education Bill to Improve College Access

Jul 24 2007

Just days after raising Pell Grants, Murray helps pass bill that addresses rising college costs, simplifies financial aid applications, and reforms the student loan system

(Washington, D.C.) – Today, U.S. Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) took another step to help more students attend college by voting for the Higher Education Reauthorization Act (S.1642), which passed the Senate today 95-0.

The bill will help students and their families get better information on the costs of college, simplify the financial aid application, and reform the student loan system so it puts the interests of students first.  Murray helped draft the bill as a member of the Senate's Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee. 

"Today, we took another step to help open the doors of college to more students across the country.  This bill will change lives, help young people reach their full potential, and help our country build a stronger economic future," Murray said.  "Without the support in this bill, many young people would never see the inside of a college classroom."

Senator Murray also worked to include a provision that allows new teacher preparation partnership grants to train literacy and math coaches at teacher preparation colleges and universities.  This will create a pipeline of specially-trained coaches in two critically needed areas.  Senator Murray's PASS Act (S. 6.11) calls for hiring literacy and math coaches to help students master these skills so they can graduate prepared for college and careers.

The Higher Education Reauthorization that passed today also:

  • Reauthorizes and improves GEAR UP and TRIO programs that help students from disadvantaged backgrounds prepare for and attend college
  • Provides additional grant funds to Upward Bound programs for low-income students
  • Creates a new program to help colleges that serve Native American students
  • Provides scholarships for spouses of military service members
  • Reauthorizes programs to help non-traditional students attend college

Now that the bill has passed the full Senate, the House of Representatives must pass a companion bill.

Today's action comes just days after another victory for students.  On Friday (7/20/07), the Senate passed another higher education reform bill (S.1762) . That bill, the Higher Education Access Act of 2007, raised the maximum Pell Grant amount, protected graduates from spending more than 15% of their income on loan payments each month, and offered loan forgiveness for students who pursue public service jobs.

Senator Murray's full statement follows:

Mrs. MURRAY.  Mr. President, I am pleased to vote for the Higher Education Reauthorization Act because it will open the doors of college to more students across the country.  I want to commend Senator Kennedy for his leadership on this bill.  I've been honored to work with him and the other members of the Committee to produce this comprehensive solution.  

In response to the recent student loan scandals, this bill reforms the student loan process so that it puts the interests of students first and makes the system more transparent.  To help address rising college costs, this bill takes a number of steps to increase user-friendly information available to students and parents about college costs.  I'm also pleased that this bill will make it easier for students to apply for financial aid by replacing the current 10-page application with a new 2-page version.  This bill offers more help for students from disadvantaged backgrounds.  Specifically, it strengthens TRIO programs to make students more prepared for higher education.  It also expands and improves GEAR UP programs, which are a critical tool to help guide and prepare disadvantaged students for high school graduation and college enrollment.

I am especially pleased that the bill includes my proposal to train math and literacy coaches in colleges of education.  As I've been working to improve our schools, I've recognized that we need to provide additional support to students in math and reading. By addressing those areas, we can improve the graduation rate and help students graduate prepared for college and careers.  When I introduced the PASS Act (S.611) earlier this year, I included reading and math coaches as a key way to improve the graduation rate.  I'm pleased that this Higher Education Reauthorization includes a grants program that will help train those coaches, so we have a ready pipeline of qualified coaches to address these critical areas.

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