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Nov. 8 is also considered First-Generation College Day. Photo credit: Getty Images.

Higher Education Act celebrates its 55th anniversary

The term ‘first-generation’ was introduced in the legislation, which represented a breakthrough for Latinos who have been able to attend college.

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In 1965, Former President Lyndon Johnson signed the Higher Education Act (HEA) into law. The legislation aimed to strengthen the educational resources of colleges and universities, as well as to provide financial assistance for students in postsecondary and higher education. 

The HEA increased federal money given to universities, created scholarships, gave low-interest loans for students, and established a National Teachers Corps. Pell Grants and Stafford Loans are among the programs created to provide financial assistance to college students. While about 34% of American college undergraduates are now receiving Pell Grants, more than 33 million have received Stafford loans. 

With the growing number of people having access to university for the first time in their family’s history, the term ‘first-generation’ was introduced at the HEA. According to The University of New Mexico Newsroom, first-generation students make up one-third of college students in the United States today. Most students average around age 23, but the number of ‘Gen Z’ first-generation students is also rising. 

Representing a lot to Latinos who have increasingly been able to attend college, the HEA has opened many doors to the community. Today, Latinos are more likely to be first-generation college students than any other racial or ethnic group. According to Excelencia in Education, 44% of Hispanic students are the first in their family to attend college. 

Since it expired in 2013, the HEA has been running on temporary extensions as Congress has been unable to reach an agreement on its reauthorization. A reauthorization and update of the HEA were reported to be nearing an agreement between Republicans and Democrats in the Senate in 2020, when the COVID-19 pandemic placed discussions on it and many other matters on hold, according to Investopedia. 

To read more about the HEA, click here

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