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Wu Legislative Successes Build Toward Legacy as Oregon's "Education Congressman"
Author: Office of Marketing and Communications
Posted: July 22, 2005
Congressman David Wu again succeeded in amending H.R. 609, the College Access and Opportunity Act of 2005, to include several pieces of his higher education legislative package announced earlier this year. Congressman Wu's legislative package is designed to provide common sense solutions to the problems facing students pursuing higher education and to support our nation's institutions of higher education.

Congressman Wu's successes are particularly noteworthy in light of severe budget cuts. Earlier this year, Congress passed a Republican budget resolution that instructed the House Committee on Education and Workforce to cut $12.6 billion over the next six years. Subsequently, H.R. 609 represents the single largest cut to the federal student aid program in its forty year history.

"Since my first term in Congress, I have had the opportunity to make higher education more accessible for students and to support our colleges and universities," stated Congressman Wu. "Working on behalf of Oregonians who are in pursuit of higher education in order to make a better future for themselves and for America is very rewarding. I am pleased to serve the country in this capacity."

Congressman Wu's successes over the last two weeks mean:

> more community college students will continue their education at 4-year institutions to earn bachelor degrees;
> a greater number of students from varying disciplines will pursue teaching degrees;
> graduates burdened with loans will save money;
> cash-strapped students will receive their full financial aid checks at the beginning of the term; and
> historically significant campus buildings will be restored and maintained.

Community colleges and four-year institutions across the country will now have access to federal funds to create partnerships to assist community college students in continuing their education at four-year institutions. Congressman Wu based his legislation on a program Portland State University (PSU) created to address the needs of students who pursue their education in non-traditional ways. PSU discovered students would take classes at a community college in the morning, go to work, and then take night classes at PSU, or vice versa. Those students had to deal with two sets of administrations, two sets of paperwork, and two sets of financial aid.

In response, PSU partnered with Portland Community College to decrease this administrative burden. The partnership allows a community college student to register in a dual enrollment program. Enrollees' class credits, financial aid, and administrative paperwork seamlessly transfer between the schools. Such partnerships ultimately encourage more students to continue their education at 4-year institutions to earn bachelor degrees the competitive global economy demands.

Colleges and universities around the country will be able to use federal dollars from teacher recruitment grants to establish dual degree programs. Congressman Wu's dual degree amendment mirrors a new program Oregon State University began to encourage more students to pursue teaching degrees. The program allows students to earn two bachelor's degrees at the same time, one in their chosen field and the other in education. Congressman Wu believes these programs will attract a broader population of teacher candidates and directly address teacher recruitment needs for more secondary science, mathematics and technology teachers.

Just as families have saved money when refinancing their home mortgages, graduates will be able to consolidate their student loans with the lender of their choice, taking advantage of competitive interest rates and loan terms. H.R. 609 includes a core provision of Congressman Wu's Student Loan Fairness Act which repeals current law denying graduates with loans from a single lender the right to seek out the lowest cost consolidation loan.

Additionally, colleges, such as Portland State University, with lending practices deemed to have a low loan default rate will have the flexibility to offer students access to their full loan amount to purchase books, supplies, housing deposits and other educational startup expenses. H.R. 609 also includes Congressman Wu's Paperwork Reduction and Flexibility Act that allows these low default rate colleges and universities the flexibility to disburse the entire amount of a student loan to first time borrowers in a single payment and waive a burdensome 30-day withholding requirement. Currently students often have to finance the first few months of college startup expenses using other lines of credit such as unsecured loans or credit cards that typically have higher interest rates than student loans.

Institutions of higher education will now have access to federal grant funds to restore and maintain historically significant campus buildings. Congressman Wu's amendment clarified existing law that allows institutions to use federal funds to construct, maintain and renovate classrooms for many purposes, including making them more technologically advanced. Many institutions can now invest in older campus buildings, such as PSU's Lincoln Hall, to not only better serve students, but also to salvage an important piece of local and American history.

Congressman Wu also passed an amendment to address the rising cost of college textbooks. He believes one way a college education can be more accessible for all students is to make textbooks more affordable. The amendment lists specific steps textbook publishers, college bookstores, faculty and institutions of higher education should take to make college textbooks more affordable for students.

Congressman Wu's textbook amendment follows a request he made last year for the Government Accountability Office to investigate the rise in the price of textbooks and the business practices of the publishing industry. The report is due to be released early next month. Should the report highlight areas in need of reform, Congressman Wu will continue to pursue legislation.

Still at issue in the bill is the need to increase the maximum amount of the Pell Grant and provide full funding for those grants. Since 1993, the maximum authorized Pell Grant has been $5,800, though the maximum amount funded for Fiscal Year 2005 is only $4,050. While college costs rise every year, H.R. 609 freezes the maximum authorization at $5,800 through 2013. In 1976, the Pell Grant funded up to 72% of the average cost of a public 4-year institution; today, it provides less than 40% of the costs. Congressman Wu intends to keep fighting to increase the funding level, placing college within reach of more families.

BACKGROUND: H.R. 609 amends and reauthorizes higher education programs receiving federal dollars. H.R. 609 was marked up over the last three days in the House Committee on Education and Workforce and follows last week's mark up in the Subcommittee on 21st Century Competitiveness. Committee action on H.R. 609 is now complete and the legislation is ready for consideration by the full House of Representatives.

Congressman Wu has served on the House Committee on Education and Workforce since his first election to Congress in 1998.

Congressman Wu's Higher Education Successes -
What Others are Saying

“Congressman Wu’s work on the Higher Education Reauthorization bill will make a tremendous difference to students and faculty, those who are on our college campuses today and those who will be here in the future. Mr. Wu has improved financial aid programs, brought attention to important policy issues facing higher education in Oregon and nationally, and secured support for vital higher education programs. For PSU, his work means that students will get their financial aid without delay, that there is support for important partnerships, like the ones PSU has developed with high schools and community colleges, and that Congress recognizes the need for preserving historically significant buildings like PSU’s Lincoln Hall.”
Daniel O. Bernstine, President, Portland State University

"We very much appreciate Congressman Wu’s efforts in support of “dual degrees” as a strategy for recruiting talented teachers for Oregon and the nation’s youth. Our innovative Education Double Degree at Oregon State University is providing a new and effective pathway to teaching for students from engineering, science, and other areas. These students have the skills and motivation to help our schools and students reach higher levels of achievement in the critical areas of math, science, and technology.”
Sam Stern, Dean, Oregon State University College of Education

"Congressman Wu continues to make important strides in improving the student aid programs. Through his efforts, needy students will receive their loan proceeds when they most need them to purchase books, pay tuition and housing, at the start of the term. His proposals will help students in Oregon and nationwide."
Kate Peterson, Director of Financial Aid, Oregon State University

"Congressman Wu continues to work hard on behalf of Oregon students. I sincerely appreciate his efforts to expand dual degree programs because the result will be better prepared classroom teachers, an important factor in student achievement."
Susan Castillo, State Superintendent of Public Instruction


Source: Jillian Schoene (202-225-0855) Office, (541-729-4772) Cell
Congressman Wu's Office