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Aim Higher Act Sets Stage for HEA Reauthorization

On July 24, 2018, House Education and the Workforce Democrats, led by Ranking Member Bobby Scott (D–VA), unveiled the Aim Higher Act—their comprehensive, 800-plus-page proposal to reauthorize the Higher Education Act (HEA)—the Aim Higher Act. The Democrats’ proposal maintains many existing programs within current law and also establishes new ones, prioritizing access to a wide variety of student financial aid, educator development, institutional accountability, supports for underresourced institutions, and debt-free college education. The bill includes several provisions that affect undergraduate research and other topics of interest to the Council on Undergraduate Research and its partners.

• The bill seeks to update the Pell Grant program as a way to make college more affordable. Specifically, the proposal increases the maximum award and permanently indexes the Pell award to inflation to sustain purchasing value. The bill also opens Pell to shorter-term programs for undergraduates, extends eligibility, and strives to make a majority of programmatic funding mandatory (not subject to passage of annual funding bills by Congress).

• The bill increases authorized funding levels for TRIO programs and campus-based child-care services for student parents and provides supports for foster and homeless youth to successfully transition into higher education and graduate. Funding is also increased for the Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs (GEAR UP) program.

• The bill provides support for minority-serving institutions to increase their capacity to prepare students in the physical or natural sciences, mathematics, computer science, information technology or sciences, and engineering.

• The bill establishes competitive and partnership grant funding to institutions for various priorities, including support for veteran student centers, support for dual enrollment and similar programs such as work-based learning, training to support faculty development with inclusive instruction for students with disabilities, and assistance for community colleges to provide comprehensive services designed to promote attainment of an associate’s degree at little to no cost to students.

• The bill expands the teacher quality partnerships (TQP) grants and maintains the TEACH Grant program.

• The bill provides competitive grants for institutions to offer undergraduate and graduate initiatives for pursuing careers in high-need areas to expand knowledge and global engagement in fields such as education, dual-language programs, STEM, and computer science.

• The bill requires the secretary of education to appoint a new special assistant for equity and inclusion who will manage the federal government’s evaluation and technical support of equity and inclusion programs, in an effort to increase diversity and inclusion initiatives on campuses.

The Aim Higher Act sets the stage for any negotiation that might occur pertaining to an HEA reauthorization in the 116th Congress. For further details, consult the text of the bill and a fact sheet.


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