WASHINGTON, DC - House Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer (MD) released the following statement today in support of the College Opportunity and Affordability Act, which is on the House Floor today:
"Mr. Speaker, again today – in a bipartisan fashion – this House will pass critical legislation designed to expand college access and to make higher education more affordable for millions of American students.
"This legislation, the College Opportunity and Affordability Act, builds on the College Cost Reduction Act – legislation enacted last year that, among other things, increased the maximum Pell Grant to $5,400 over five years and cut interest rates in half on subsidized student loans, saving the average student $4,400 over the life of the loan.
"The fact is, there is a direct connection between our nation’s future prosperity and our ability to compete and succeed in a global marketplace that now relies more on brains than brawn.
"An educated workforce is absolutely indispensable in this Information Age – and this legislation represents an important step in expanding college access to more Americans.
"In particular, I want to thank Chairman Miller, Ranking Member McKeon and the Members of the Education and Labor Committee for their hard work on this bill, which was reported out of Committee on a 45 to 0 vote.
"This legislation reauthorizes the Higher Education Act through Fiscal Year 2012, and, among other things, it will encourage colleges to rein in price increases, providing incentives – such as additional need-based aid – to colleges to hold down prices.
"It also will require the Department of Education to create 'higher education price increase watch lists' that report the full price of tuition and fees, as well as the cost of room and board for students living on campus.
"And, it seeks to restore integrity and accountability to the student loan program, requiring institutions and lenders to adopt strict codes of conduct, and providing students with full and fair information about their borrowing options.
"Furthermore, this bill will make textbook costs more manageable by providing students with advance information on textbook pricing so that they can plan for expenses and by ensuring that colleges and faculty have full textbook pricing information when making purchasing decisions.
"Just today, the Washington Post noted in an editorial: 'Textbook prices have been rising rapidly in recent decades, increasing at more than 2½ times the rate of inflation from 1986 to 2004, according to a Government Accountability Office report.'
"The Post continued: 'At the University of Maryland at College Park, the average student spends more than $1,000 a year on textbooks – equal to 20 percent of tuition.'
"Mr. Speaker, it not only is imperative to expand college access, but also to do what we can to ensure that our students do not graduate with crushing debt that haunts them for decades.
"In addition, this important bill will make college more affordable for low-income and non-traditional students by allowing students to receive Pell Grant scholarship aid year around.
"And, it creates a new scholarship program for active duty military personnel and family members, including children and spouses of active duty military service members and veterans.
"Finally, let me say that I am pleased that this legislation includes provisions that Congressman Berman and I worked on that require institutions to disclose to students and employees its policies related to copyright infringement and a description of actions that institutions take to prevent and detect illegal file sharing.
"Mr. Speaker, this a good, thoughtful piece of legislation. And, I urge members on both sides of the aisle to vote for it.