Every several years, laws need to be reauthorized by Congress. The process – known as reauthorization – is a way to revamp and improve our laws as things change over time. One of the next laws we are expecting Congress to work on is the Higher Education Opportunity Act.

The Higher Education Opportunity Act covers everything related to college from student loans and financial aid to teacher preparation and programs to support low-income or first generation students. It also provides important supports for college students with disabilities and the educators who work with them.

In December, the House introduced their version of what the new higher education law should be: the Promoting Real Opportunity, Success, and Prosperity through Education Reform (PROSPER) Act. The PROSPER Act would completely rewrite the current law that governs higher education. Because of the many ways it would limit opportunities for students with disabilities, NCLD and many of our partners opposed the PROSPER Act.

On December 12, the House Education and Workforce Committee met to markup the bill. Rep. Bonamici (D-OR) made a strong statement of support for the RISE Act and discussed the importance of increasing accessibility in college for students with disabilities.

“For years we’ve focused on raising expectations in K-12 education. Now it’s time to do the same in higher education,” the Congresswoman said.

Unfortunately, however, the RISE Act was not included as part of the PROSPER Act when the Committee passed the bill with a vote of 23 to 17. Next, the full House will need to consider the bill, but there’s no word yet on when that might happen.

With the new year underway, the Senate is starting to ramp up their discussions about higher education. They are beginning with hearings to learn more from experts and the public about important issues like financial aid.  As they draft their own bill, NCLD will continue advocating to ensure increased access to higher education for students with disabilities.

Over the last year, thanks to the involvement of thousands of advocates across the country, we have built a strong foundation for the RISE Act. Together, we reached nearly 300,000 people on Twitter with our Thunderclap and sent nearly 2,000 letters to Members of Congress urging their support of the RISE Act.

We cannot do this alone and we need more support from Members of Congress. Take action now to let your Members of Congress know that you support the RISE Act, and they should, too.  Because students with disabilities deserve the opportunity to succeed in college and now is the time to make a difference!

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