Correction to This Article
The A-section article said that a House authorization bill on higher education included a $20 billion increase in federal student aid. That amount was approved in a bill last year. The current bill calls for the addition of billions more, although how much more is unclear.

House Backs Billions in New College Aid

By Valerie Strauss
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, February 8, 2008

The House passed legislation yesterday that calls for billions of dollars in new financial aid for needy students to attend college and new steps to protect student loan borrowers and lower the cost of textbooks.

The bill, which passed 354 to 58, also would lead to the creation of a Web site to help families to compare the costs of schools and would require that institutions of higher education with rapidly growing tuition and fee prices report why costs are rising.

"Congress is taking steps to make college more affordable, and this is a good first step," said Gabriel Pendas, president of the United States Student Association. "We are heading in the right direction. We don't have the whole picture here, though."

The House's reauthorization of the College Opportunity and Affordability Act is opposed by the White House, which said yesterday that it will try to eliminate some provisions before the bill is enacted. President Bush is opposed to limiting the Education Department's role in accrediting colleges and universities, for example.

The act sets policy for several thousand schools that receive about $85 billion in federal funding annually. Congress still must go through a process of appropriating money to fund the bill's provisions.

The bill passed by the House yesterday:

¿ Contains a $20 billion increase in federal student aid, the largest boost since the G.I. Bill of 1944, according to Rep. George Miller (D-Calif.), chairman of the House Education and Labor Committee.

¿ Authorizes the maximum level for the Pell Grant -- given to low-income families -- to $9,000 a year from the current school year award of about $4,300. The legislation permits students to receive Pell grants year-round; they are currently unable to obtain a grant in the summer.

¿ Simplifies the federal financial aid process for students.

¿ Includes measures requiring colleges to disclose their relationships with lenders and banning banks that issue federally backed loans from giving gifts and entering into profit-sharing agreements with colleges.

¿ Requires textbook publishers to disclose the price of books when they sell them to teachers and ends a practice in which publishers sell books and supplemental materials together, which can drive up costs for students.

The House bill must now be reconciled with a similar Senate version already approved.

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