House Committee on Education and Labor
U.S. House of Representatives

Rep. Howard P. “Buck” McKeon
Ranking Member

Fiscally responsible reforms for students, workers and retirees.



Dear Colleague

July 31, 2008

H.R. 4137 Reflects GOP Higher Education Priorities
Vote Yes on H.R. 4137, the Higher Education Opportunity Act Conference Report

Dear Republican Colleague:

Later today, the House is scheduled to vote on the long-awaited conference report to H.R. 4137, the first comprehensive renewal of federal higher education programs in a decade. This legislation is based on a framework drafted by Republicans in the 109th Congress, and Republicans have much to be proud of in the final conference report.  I wanted to take just a moment to share with you the many GOP priorities included in this important legislation.

1.    Addressing the college cost crisis.  For years, Republicans have fought on behalf of students and families to make college more affordable.  Now, this signature Republican initiative is the centerpiece of a comprehensive Higher Education Act reauthorization.

2.    Increasing sunshine and transparency.  The bill calls for greater disclosure of comparable, useful data to help students and families make educated higher education choices, and to protect students from financial aid conflicts of interest.  By empowering consumers with good information, Republicans believe the goals of access, accountability, affordability, and quality can be achieved without unnecessary red tape or federal intrusion.

3.    Protecting student privacy.  The bill includes a Republican proposal that protects student privacy by prohibiting the creation of a federal “unit record” database that would track personally identifiable information on each and every student enrolled in college.  Republicans believe students should not be forced to relinquish their privacy just because they wish to pursue postsecondary education.

4.    Strengthening Pell Grants.  Thanks to Republicans, H.R. 4137 prohibits Pell Grants from being provided to involuntarily confined sex offenders.  Prior to our amendment, a loophole allowed these individuals, deemed so dangerous that they cannot be released after completing their incarceration, to receive taxpayer-funded Pell Grants.  Republicans believe federal financial aid should focus on low- and middle-income students, not dangerous sexual predators.

5.    Easing college credit mobility.  The bill includes a Republican proposal to make transfer of credit policies public so students can plan ahead and avoid wasting time and money.  It also encourages states to develop and improve articulation agreements to make credit transfer easier among institutions within a state and across state lines.

6.    Simplifying the FAFSA.  The bill will simplify the financial aid process with a shorter EZ-FAFSA form and it will make financial aid information available to students earlier in the college planning process, both major Republican priorities.

7.    Strengthening American competitiveness.  Republicans want to ensure our higher education system can help meet our growing international competitive challenges.  Specifically, the bill includes provisions to help increase the number of math, science, and foreign language teachers and professionals.

8.    Establishing an Academic Bill of Rights.  Republicans have fought to strengthen protections for student speech and association rights under the federal Higher Education Act through the establishment of an “Academic Bill of Rights.” The protections also ensure the federal government will not influence the curriculum being taught in colleges.

9.    Prohibiting federal curricula, protecting opportunities for homeschooled students.  The bill expressly prohibits federal curricula in teacher training programs and for high school programs of study used to award Academic Competitiveness Grants (ACG).  Under the bill, homeschooled students are eligible for this financial aid program and not discriminated against based on curricula.  Republicans are strongly committed to preserving state and local control in these areas.

10.  Supporting members of the military.  The bill includes numerous proposals to improve higher education opportunities for members of the Armed Forces including changes to allow greater participation in TRIO college access programs and improvements to the way financial aid is calculated for military personnel.  The bill also creates a website to make it easier for veterans and members of the military to find information on financial aid opportunities available to them, and it requires states to provide in-state tuition rates to members of the military, their spouses, and their dependent children.

I urge you to join me in supporting these important higher education reforms.  For more information, please contact the Education and Labor Committee Republican staff at x5-6558.



Howard P. “Buck” McKeon (R-CA)
Senior Republican Member
Education and Labor Committee