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Saturday, May 25, 2024

ASM delves into Higher Education Act

The Associated Students of Madison Legislative Affairs Committee met Monday to discuss reauthorizing the Higher Education Act, which deals with federal student aid and is up for reapproval by Congress this year.

President Lyndon Johnson first passed the HEA in 1965 as part of his “Great Society” set of domestic programs aimed at eliminating poverty and racial injustice. Since then, it has been periodically reauthorized by Congress, most recently in 2008.

In 2008, Congress used the reauthorization process to pursue multiple goals such as control abuses within the student-loan system. One goal lawmakers continue to focus on with the HEA is working to make college more affordable.

The committee discussed specific areas in which it could work with lawmakers to improve the HEA in its upcoming reapproval.

Among these goals was a focus on the way financial aid is recognized by the government. Currently, financial aid in excess of tuition is regarded as taxable income.

Committee Chair Morgan Rae suggested this aid could be used on other college expenses outside of tuition, such as textbooks and other school supplies.

The committee also drew attention to Pell Grants, which are a form of aid given to students based on need, and unlike loans, do not need to be repaid. Currently, Pell Grants issued to students are fixed at just over $5,500 and do not increase.

One goal discussed by the committee would be to ensure these grants increase with inflation to assist students in need of financial aid. Another would be to reinstate year-round Pell Grants to compensate for the lack of available Pell Grants in the summer.

The Legislative Affairs Committee will meet in the coming weeks to further discuss points of focus in the Higher Education Act’s reauthorization.

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