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Congressman Bobby Scott

Representing the 3rd District of Virginia

ACCESSING HIGHER EDUCATION OPPORTUNITIES ACT

July 11, 2016
Floor Statements

Mr. SCOTT of Virginia. Mr. Speaker, I rise in support of the bill, and I would like to say a few brief words about the package of higher education bills being considered today.

   These bills will simplify the financial aid application process; they will help students make well-informed decisions when selecting a college and determining how to finance the education; and they will financially strengthen Historically Black Colleges and Universities. This bill expands access for high school students to dual and concurrent enrollment programs at Hispanic-Serving Institutions. Taken together, this package represents a step in the right direction for students and families.

   A college degree remains the surest path out of poverty and into the middle class. Census data shows that earnings increase as the level of education increases. In other words, the more you learn, the more you earn. In addition to increased earnings, individuals with higher levels of education are less likely to be unemployed, less likely to receive public assistance, less likely to work in unskilled jobs with little upward mobility, and less likely to become involved in the criminal justice system.

   The ability to attend college for many students is due in large part to the significant investment we have made in higher education through the Higher Education Act of 1965. As President Johnson said when he signed the HEA into law over 50 years ago: ``It means that a high school senior, anywhere in this great land of ours, can apply to any college or any university in any of the 50 States and not be turned away because his family is poor.''

   HEA's goal was, and still is, to provide a pathway to the middle class for millions of working families around the country by making college affordable and accessible to everyone. Unfortunately, the initial promise of HEA has eroded. For far too many of our students, the principles of access and economic opportunity are in jeopardy. The bills considered today take a major step in restoring the original purpose of the Higher Education Act so that no child will be denied access to the opportunities afforded by higher education because his family is poor.