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Ellen Smith, assistant vice president, represents and informs the Univesity on issues such as financial aid, Medicare and Medicaid, research funds and tax policies as they pertain to higher education.

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 VOL. 23, NO. 23MAY 20, 1998 

Legislative Update

House Passes Higher Ed Bill


By an overwhelming margin of 414–4, the House of Representatives passed the Higher Education Amendments of 1998, a bill to authorize federal student financial aid and set policy decisions for the next five years.

  Once a Senate bill is passed, House and Senate negotiators will meet in conference to work out their differences. The authorized levels serve as a benchmark for annual funding decisions for many programs.

  The bill provides a series of programs for students and schools. Some of programs in the bill include:

  • Increases in the Pell Grant maximum from $3,000 to $4,500 in the 1999-2000 academic year (with subsequent annual increases of $200 a year);

  • Increases in the TRIO early intervention program funding and creates a new “High Hopes for College” program;

  • Increases in the Federal authorization level for Work Study programs;

  • The current “hold-harmless” provision are retained for schools that entered campus-based programs early;

  • The bill retains the GAAN graduate program;

  • Legislatively allows schools to offer voluntary early retirement programs for faculty, and

  • Students will also likely be able to obtain guaranteed student loans at lower interest rates due to a compromise included in the bill.

  During House floor consideration of the bill, a number of amendments were considered. An amendment that would have prohibited consideration of race, ethnicity and gender in admissions decisions was defeated. All but four New Yorkers voted against. An amendment deleted a portion of the bill that would have required colleges and universities to report four years in advance if they eliminated sports (intramural or intercollegiate). Another amendment changed reporting requirements on violent campus crimes.

   The bill requires the General Accounting Office to report on college cost and tuition increases at all colleges and universities.

  For additional information, contact Ellen S. Smith, assistant vice president and director of federal relations, ess9@columbia.edu, Fax: (212) 666-1952.