Congress reauthorized the Higher Education Act this month, and the changes will clear up many issues bugging university officials and students across the United States.
The revised act, which was ushered into law Aug. 14, marks the first time in more than a decade Congress reauthorized it.
It's about darn time. Better late than never, eh?
While the 1,158-page act will do little to lower the cost for students to attend college, some major points of contention Congress is trying to fix with its changes include:
> Questionable tuition and fee increases: The act now requires all schools, including the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, to be more accountable for these increases. U.S. colleges with the highest and lowest tuition costs will now be ranked. And the top 5 percent of colleges with the greatest tuition increases also will have to submit detailed reports to justify their hikes. Those same schools will have to explain how to control future surges, too.
> Time-consuming FAFSA process: Soon, the seven-page application will shrink to two pages and fittingly be renamed the FAFSA-EZ. Students will have to only update the new FAFSA when needed now instead of every year.
> Inconvenient bulk-only purchasing: No longer will students be required to buy CDs, textbooks and online codes in packages. The act forces publishers and universities to sell all of those items separately now.
> Suspicious lenders: Schools that encourage students to use certain loan providers now will have to suggest at least three lenders and explain why they are reliable.
> Few benefits for specific demographics: With the revised act, military veterans and students with disabilities will get extended benefits. Congress also will offer loan forgiveness programs for people in social service careers such as nurses, prosecutors, public defenders and teachers. Low-income students now can snag Pell Grants year-round.
All educational institutions that receive federal funding or aid - community colleges, private and public colleges and universities - will have to apply the rules the Higher Education Act sets.