3:20 PM EDT

John Tierney, D-MA 6th

Mr. TIERNEY. Mr. Speaker, I yield myself such time as I may consume.

Mr. Speaker, I rise in support of Senate 2929, a bill to temporarily extend programs under the Higher Education Act of 1965.

At the beginning of February, the House took the next step in the reauthorization of the Higher Education Act in passing H.R. 4137, the College Opportunity and Affordability Act.

Now we find ourselves in the near final phase of completing the reauthorization of the Higher Education Act as we work towards a compromise bill with the Senate to ensure that the doors of college are truly open to all qualified students. It's our goal to ensure that a final bill encompasses the major issues addressed in H.R. 4137, including the skyrocketing college prices and needlessly complicated student-aid application process and predatory tactics by student lenders.

The bill under consideration today, S. 2929, will extend the programs under the Higher Education Act until May 31, 2008, to allow sufficient time for final deliberations on the two bills reported out of the respective chambers. While the process of reauthorizing the Higher Education Act may be coming to a close, I would like to underscore that this does not mean that we will complete work on higher education altogether.

The committee intends to continue to address issues as needed, which include not only overseeing the proper implementation of the College Cost Reduction and Access Act and the rest of the Higher Education Act, but also, for example, ensuring availability of student loans during this challenging credit market, which the House acted on last week in passing H.R. 5715.

It has been nearly 10 years since the Higher Education Act was last reauthorized, and I believe that Members on both sides of the aisle and in both chambers are anxious to complete work on a compromise bill in this Congress, and we believe it can happen.

I look forward to completing this work with the respective Members on behalf of our Nation's hardworking families and students.

I reserve the balance of my time.

3:22 PM EDT

Charles Boustany Jr., R-LA 7th

Mr. BOUSTANY. Mr. Speaker, I yield myself such time as I might consume.

Mr. Speaker, I rise in support of S. 2929, a 1-month extension of the Higher Education Act.

Over the past several months, a tremendous amount of progress has been made toward reauthorization of the Higher Education Act. The Education and Labor Committee worked in a bipartisan fashion to produce a bill that received strong support here on the House floor.

Chairman Miller and Ranking Member McKeon have been leading our efforts to negotiate a final compromise with the other chamber, and I am pleased to report that our work is nearly done. While I support today's temporary extension of programs under the Higher Education Act, I know members of the committee, along with members of the higher education community, will be pleased to hear our assurances that this will be the final extension we have to pass. We expect conference meetings

to wrap up in the next several weeks with a conference report to be brought back in the month of May.

As we move toward finalizing this broad overhaul of Federal higher education programs, our top priority must remain college access and affordability. Bolstering our higher education and student aid programs has long been a priority for Congress.

One of the issues that has received a great deal of attention throughout the reauthorization process has been the rising cost of higher education and the high levels of debt that accompany that education for many students.

As a physician, I am keenly aware of the unique challenges faced by new graduates in the medical field, who often carry hundreds of thousands of dollars in debt, yet make an initial wage that is no more than many individuals with a bachelor's degree. I am particularly concerned that high debt levels among medical graduates may be limiting career choices, and that's why I was pleased to partner with another doctor on the committee, the gentleman from Georgia, Dr. Price, to call for a

study of indebtedness of medical school graduates. It's important that we closely monitor the impact of student loan debt on all the young people pursuing higher education so that we can ensure the value of that investment is not outweighed by the burdens.

I urge my colleagues to retain the House-passed provisions of the reauthorization bill that will help to address our Nation's looming nursing shortage, which makes health care more expensive for all Americans while delaying access to lifesaving treatment. HHS warns that the Nation's nursing shortage could exceed 1 million nursing vacancies by the year 2020. Congress has a duty to address this problem.

I want to thank my colleagues, Congresswoman McCarthy and Congressman Melancon, for working across the aisle with me on this issue. This authorization is a long time coming, and I am pleased to be here supporting what we expect to be the final extension before this law is finally renewed.

I urge my colleagues to support this extension.

I reserve the balance of my time.