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Student loans in the U.S.
Regulatory framework
Higher Education Act of 1965
US Dept of Education
FAFSA Cost of attendance
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Federal Direct Student Loan Program
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The Higher Education Act of 1965 (Pub. L. No. 89-329) (the "HEA") was legislation signed into United States law on November 8, 1965 as part of President Lyndon Johnson's Great Society domestic agenda. Johnson chose Southwest Texas State Teachers College in San Marcos, Texas (known today as Texas State University) as the signing site.[1] The law was intended “to strengthen the educational resources of our colleges and universities and to provide financial assistance for students in postsecondary and higher education.” It increased federal money given to universities, created scholarships, gave low-interest loans for students, and established a National Teachers Corps. The "financial assistance for students" is covered in Title IV of the HSA.

The Higher Education Act of 1965 was reauthorized in 1968, 1972, 1976, 1980, 1986, 1992, 1998, and 2008. Current authorization for the programs in the Higher Education Act expires at the end of 2013. Before each reauthorization, Congress amends additional programs, changes the language and policies of existing programs, or makes other changes.

Signing plaque rests on campus grounds of Texas State University.


Changes in 1998

The Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs (GEAR UP) was first authorized under the Higher Education Amendments of 1998. Also in the amendments of 1998 is the Aid Elimination Provision, which prevents students with drug charges from receiving federal aid for colleges and universities. This is where question 31 on the FAFSA forms originates from. The question asks if the student has ever been convicted of a drug crime while receiving federal financial aid. If the answer is "Yes" or the question is left blank, the student is denied aid. There is currently a case supported by the ACLU going against this provision, titled Students for Sensible Drug Policy vs. Spellings.

Changes in 2003

In 2003, many of the parts of the Higher Education Act were set to expire. To be more effective, different minority groups came together to ask for these changes. They called themselves the Alliance for Equity in Higher Education. This group was made up of “the American Indian Higher Education Consortium, the Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities, and the National Association for Equal Opportunity in Higher Education, an advocacy group for historically black colleges and universities, [and they] presented their joint recommendations for the reauthorization of the Higher Education Act.”[2] These groups found that by coming together, they could help all minority groups achieve the same goals. The goals of the Alliance were to help minority students enter fields where they were underrepresented and to give incentives to minorities to enter these programs. These incentives included more lenient on loan collection and full government funding for minority education. The Alliance also advocated funding minorities in graduate programs. Just like with undergraduate programs, the Alliance called for the government to create funding for students in the graduate programs of universities serving the minority population.[2] Yet, the Alliance was also asking for funds to help its institutions, as well as its students. There was a call for the federal government to give more funding to help keep these institutions up-to-date, and their programs current. Again, to keep students attending these universities, and to prepare these students for the real world, the Alliance was asking for the government’s help to make sure that they were on the same education level as other colleges and universities.[2] Even though the Alliance was heard, with its request for change in the Higher Education Act, it did not mean that changed happened. In 2003, the request for increasing the amount offered in a Pell Grant, to better cover a student’s expenses, was denied by the Senate.[3] Still, other issues were corrected. There was a section passed, by the House, that did allow more funds to go to institutions, in order to keep them current; and a grace period for colleges asking for more loans was eliminated. So, if more funding were needed, minority institutions would not have to wait.[4]

Recent Activity

With the changes proposed in 2003, the actual Higher Education Act was not reestablished. Instead, many of its sections were renewed, with little radical change. Numerous extensions have followed, with the most recent extension lasting through August 15, 2008. The Senate passed an HEA reauthorization bill in July 2007, as did the House of Representatives in February 2008. The accompanying conference report passed both houses of Congress on July 31, 2008 and will be sent to the President for his signature.

Additionally, the College Cost Reduction and Access Act (CCRA), a budget reconciliation bill signed into law in September 2007, made significant changes to federal financial aid programs included in HEA. In addition to increasing the maximum Pell grant award and reducing interest rates on subsidized student loans, this bill capped loan repayment at 15 percent of an individual’s discretionary income, raised the income protection allowance, enacted loan forgiveness for public servants in the Direct Loan program, and took actions to address problematic practices in the lending industry. Most CCRA provisions took effect on October 1, 2007.[5]

On August 14, 2008, the Higher Education Opportunity Act (Public Law 110-315) (HEOA) was enacted. It reauthorized the amended version of the Higher Education Act of 1965. [6] This act made major changes in student loan discharges for disabled people. Previously, to qualify for a discharge, a disabled person could have no income. This has been changed to "substantial gainful activity," which is the same standard used by the Social Security Administration in determining eligibility for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI). The changes will take effect on July 1, 2010.


  1. ^ "Johnson signs legislation into law". LBJ Library and Museum. Retrieved October 23, 2009.  
  2. ^ a b c Stephen Burd, “Institutions Serving Minority Students Propose Changes to Higher Education Act,” Chronicle of Higher Education 49, no. 26 (2003),
  3. ^ “Capital briefs,” Community College Week 16, no. 4 (2003): 3,
  4. ^ Kristina Lane, “Bill Would Expand Higher Ed. Access for Minorities, Low-Income Students,” Community College Week 16, no. 4 (2003): 3,
  5. ^ American Association of University Women. Increasing Access to Higher Education. January 2008.
  6. ^



Source material

Up to date as of January 22, 2010

From Wikisource

Public Law 89-329
by the 89th Congress of the United States
Higher Education Act of 1965
Pub.L. 89−329, 79 Stat. 1219, H.R. 9567, enacted November 8, 1965.
Information about this edition

Note: This is the original legislation as it was initially enacted. Like many laws, this statute may have since been amended once or many times, and the text contained herein may no longer be legally current. Follow the interlinks within the content or check to see What Links Here for more.


An Act

To strengthen tbe educational resources of our colleges and universities and to provide financial assistance
for students in postsecondary and higher education.

Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled,


This Act may be cited as the ``Higher Education Act of 1965´´.

Approved November 8, 1965.

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Higher Education Act of 1965.

Legislative History

  • H.R. 9567
    • No. 89-621 (Comm. on Education and Labor)
    • No. 89-1178 (Comm. of Conference)
    • No. 89-673 (Comm. on Labor and Public Welfare)
  • CONGRESSIONAL RECORD, Vol. 111 (1965):
    • Aug. 26, considered and passed House.
    • Sept. 1, considered in Senate.
    • Sept. 2, considered and passed Senate, amended.
    • Oct. 20, House and Senate agreed to conference report.


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