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 Stories for April 15, 1998

Congress Reauthorizes the Higher Education Act

by Michelle Barer Moskowitz, Public Affairs
posted Apr. 15, 1998

In the past two weeks, the education committees of the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate both overwhelmingly approved amendments to the Reauthorization of the Higher Education Act (HEA) of 1998.

The HEA is the act of Congress authorizing all federally supported programs for higher education from libraries, student preparation and teacher education to foreign language, international education and graduate education. The act is renewed by Congress every six years.

Months of deliberation went into this mammoth bill, which helps highlight issues of higher education for members of Congress and emphasizes the importance of academic institutions to American society.

“Throughout this process we followed three compelling principles – making college affordable, simplifying the student aid system and stressing academic quality for students. We succeeded on all three counts,” said House Education Committee chair Bill Goodling, R-Pa. “This higher education bill will be one of the most important things this Republican Congress will do this year.”

The act is especially important to Berkeley because it has an enormous impact on graduate student funding in the humanities.

The HEA reauthorizes funds for the prestigious Jacob Javits fellowship program, the only program that supports multi-year doctoral studies in the arts and humanities. The Javits program was created by Congress as a sister program to the National Science Foundation’s Graduate Fellowship program. Historically, the University of California has attracted between 15 and 20 percent of fellows nationwide, with more than half of these enrolled at Berkeley. There are currently 14 Javits fellows at Berkeley out of 127 nationwide.

Though some have proposed consolidating the Javits with other graduate education programs, Berkeley and several other research universities are working to preserve funding for a distinct Javits program.

Some other provisions of the Higher Education Act of 1998 are:

  • A new, low-interest rate for student loans – the lowest in 17 years

  • Increased assistance to disadvantaged students

  • A new quality teacher initiative

  • Modernization of the student financial aid delivery system

Also notable is the House committee’s approval of the presidential proposal “High Hopes,” providing a $140 million appropriation for a college-school partnership to prepare low-income students in the sixth and seventh grades for college. UC is a highly competitive candidate for this program.

In fact, the Berkeley Pledge has become a model for High Hopes, and a former Pledge student introduced President Clinton at the announcement of the High Hopes initiative.

The entire package of legislation is expected to go before the Senate in late April soon after the House version is considered.

Berkeley is one on hundreds of institutions nationwide that will be keeping a close eye on the bill for the next few months, hoping that its renewed mandates will better serve the higher education community. The final outcome is expected this summer.

Government Affairs representatives in the Office of Public Affairs regularly communicate with the Office of Federal Relations in Washington, D.C., about pending legislation that impacts Berkeley.

Examples of current legislation that may be of interest to faculty and staff include:

  • Human Subject Research Protection Act

  • Database copyright and intellectual property legislation

  • Interest rates on student loans legislation

  • American Competitiveness Act (to increase funding for math, science and technology education)

  • National Research Investment Act of 1998 (to double funding for basic, scientific, medical and pre-competitive engineering research)

  • Reauthorization of agriculture research programs

  • National Science Foundation Authorization Bill of 1997

For information on Government Affairs, call Michelle Barer Moskowitz at 642-7016 or Len Materman at 643-9164.

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