Government Affairs

AACN Applauds Passage of the Higher Education Act (HEA) Reauthorization

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The House and Senate voted July 31, 2008 to pass the first long-term and comprehensive reauthorization of the law governing aid to higher education in a decade. The bill passed the House by a vote of 380-49, and the Senate by a vote of 83-8.

AACN has been working with our House and Senate champions throughout the reauthorization process to see a number of provisions added to the bill, including:

  • Capacity for Nursing Students and Faculty Program (section 804). This program will address student capacity issues such as the insufficient number of faculty, admission seats, clinical sites, classroom space, clinical preceptors, and budget constraints. AACN especially thanks Senators Barbara Mikulski (D-MD), Bernard Sanders (I-VT), and Representative Carolyn McCarthy (D-NY) for their efforts to include this program.
  • Capacity for Nursing Students and Faculty Program (section 804). Also included in section 804, is Rep. McCarthy’s Nurse Faculty Pilot Project. This program will support partnerships between hospitals and nursing schools to improve alignment between nursing education and healthcare delivery. AACN has supported this proposal in multiple Congresses as stand alone bill and is pleased to see it incorporated in the HEA reauthorization.
  • The Loan Forgiveness in Areas of National Need (section 430). By recognizing nursing as an area of national need, this program will help address our national nurse shortage through educational aid for nursing students. We again thank Rep. McCarthy for her efforts to include nursing in this and the following provision.
  • The Graduate Assistance in Areas of National Need (section 703). The nurse faculty shortage plays a significant role in addressing the nursing shortage. By including the field of nursing under this program, financial assistance will be provided to nurses pursuing graduate degrees and help address the critical need for additional faculty. AACN also applauds Sen. Mikulski who has championed the inclusion of this provision for many years.
  • A Study Concerning Nursing School Capacity (section 1121). This section calls for the Institute of Medicine and the National Academy of Sciences to conduct a study on the capacity constraints at schools of nursing. AACN thanks Reps. Rush Holt (D-NJ) and Peter Welch (D-VT) for championing this effort.

AACN also recognizes the astounding efforts and true dedication given by the Chair and Ranking Member of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, Sens. Edward Kennedy (D-MA) and Michael Enzi (R-WY), as well as the Chair and Ranking Member of the House Education and Labor Committee, Reps. George Miller (D-CA), and Howard “Buck” McKeon (R-CA). These Members of Congress were instrumental in drafting and passing this vital legislation that will help address the higher education needs of the nursing workforce as well as reshape higher education programs in the best interests of students and families. AACN also thanks Sen. Mikulski for the leadership she provided during final negotiations between the House and Senate.

The bill will now go to the White House, where President Bush is expected to sign it into law. For more information on these and other provisions passed in the HEA reauthorization, please contact Suzanne Begeny, SMiyamoto@aacn.nche.edu.