20 June 2005

I owe my soul to the Student Loan Corporation

Congressman George Miller (D-California), freedom-fighter, champion of the little guy, and the man whose office found that a Wal-Mart employing 200 people costs taxpayers $420,750/year in public assistance [.pdf], is providing us all with an opportunity to testify about the affordability of education--or lack thereof. Much, much more below, but act quickly--the hearing ends June 24.

Students and Parents Urged to Comment on College Affordability for Congressional Online Hearing

House Democrats launched an e-hearing on college affordability so that students and families can tell members of Congress their personal experiences about trying to pay for a higher education. The e-hearing, on the Committee Democrats' web site, provides a forum for students and families to discuss student loans, tuition prices, and the pressures these put on their personal budgets and decisions about pursuing a higher education.

The e-hearing website is http://edworkforce.house.gov/democrats/ehearings.html. Students and parents are invited to provide testimony by writing to collegehearing@mail.house.gov by June 24, 2005 . Democratic staff from the education committee will write and circulate to the public a report on the testimony provided, and enter it into the Congressional Record. Testimony should be limited to 500 words.

"Americans get to hear from Congress all the time - it's time for Congress to hear from Americans," said Representative George Miller, the senior Democrat on the education committee. "Democrats want to hear what families are experiencing as they deal with the cost of college. Learning firsthand what people are experiencing will make us better at identifying problems and creating solutions."

**** **** **** **** ****

News - U.S. House of Representatives

EDUCATION & THE WORKFORCE COMMITTEE DEMOCRATS
Congressman George Miller, Ranking Member

Tuesday, June 14, 2005
Tom Kiley or Daniel Weiss, 202-225-2095

DEMOCRATS ANNOUNCE FAR-REACHING LEGISLATION
TO MAKE COLLEGE MORE AFFORDABLE
Launch E-Hearing for Students & Parents to Testify about Paying for College

WASHINGTON , D.C. - To help the millions of students and families that are struggling to pay for college, House Democrats today announced far-reaching legislation to make college tuition and loans more affordable and to boost college scholarships.

Democrats also launched an e-hearing on college affordability so that students and families can tell members of Congress their personal experiences about trying to pay for a higher education.

"There has never been a more important time than right now to help students and families afford a higher education," said Rep. George Miller (D-CA), the senior Democrat on the House Education and the Workforce Committee, who will introduce the legislation along with Rep. Dale Kildee (D-MI), the senior Democrat on the Subcommittee on 21st Century Competitiveness.

The bill, the College Opportunity for All Act of 2005, would:

  • double the maximum value of the Pell scholarship;
  • provide incentives to public and private colleges to keep their tuition costs from rising too rapidly;
  • significantly reduce the costs on student loans;
  • ensure that more students who go on to college actually graduate from college; and,
  • eliminate the wasteful use of taxpayer dollars to pad banks' profits when they should be used to help make college affordable.

"This legislation solves the dilemma we've put our students in by prioritizing grant aid over loans," said Kildee. "Additionally, when a student is forced to take out loans to pay for college, this bill ensures they receive the lowest interest rate possible. This bill is good for students and their financial future."

A number of policy decisions and economic trends have combined to make it more difficult for students to afford college. The Bush tax cuts of the last few years have led to federal budget cuts that, coupled with the recession four years ago, have seriously harmed state budgets. This has driven up tuition prices for the 75 percent of students who attend public colleges and universities.

Meanwhile, student loans have replaced scholarships as the primary source of federal student financial aid. Thirty years ago, scholarships comprised about three-quarters of total federal student aid, while loans comprised about 20 percent. This ratio has been reversed, so that today the typical graduate has nearly $20,000 in student loan debt, and 40 percent of graduates have unmanageable student loan loads.

"In the last few years, hundreds of thousands of students have foregone a college education because they can't afford it. Qualified students have earned their right to a college education and all the opportunities that education brings," said Miller.

Miller and Kildee also said that America 's standing in the world economy is threatened by the nation's failure to make higher education a greater priority. "If we don't prioritize an affordable college education, we are going to fall behind other world nations," said Kildee. "Investment in our students, which this bill would accomplish, strengthens our economic and security positions in the world."

The Miller-Kildee legislation aims to address these issues. It will also help boost college graduation rates, since today only about half of all students graduate from college within six years.

Miller and Kildee are urging students and parents to tell Congress about their experiences in trying to pay for college. Today, they are launching an e-hearing on the Committee Democrats' web site to provide a forum for students and families to discuss student loans, tuition prices, and the pressures these put on their personal budgets and decisions about pursuing a higher education. This is the second e-hearing by the Committee Democrats; the first e-hearing was on the collapse of United Airlines' pension plans.

The e-hearing website is http://edworkforce.house.gov/democrats/ehearings.html. Students and parents are invited to provide testimony by writing to collegehearing@mail.house.gov by June 21, 2005. Miller's staff will write and circulate to the public a report on the testimony provided, and enter it into the Congressional Record. Testimony should be limited to 500 words.

"Americans get to hear from Congress all the time - it's time for Congress to hear from Americans," said Miller. "Democrats want to hear what families are experiencing as they deal with the cost of college. Learning firsthand what people are experiencing will make us better at identifying problems and creating solutions."

The College Opportunity for All Act of 2005 will improve the system of higher education in the United States by:

Making tuition affordable:

  • Promotes affordable tuition by encouraging states to grow funds for higher education;
  • Provides incentives to public and private colleges to make tuition more affordable;
  • Ensures colleges curb costs - and tuition prices - through cost containment strategies; and
  • Gives students and families control by providing easy-to-understand information about college costs through accessible public disclosures.

Restoring America's commitment to providing scholarships for needy students:

  • Doubles the maximum Pell grant scholarship to $11,600; makes Pell available year-round.

Reducing costs associated with taking out a student loan:

  • Lowers the interest rate cap on college loans, saving the typical student up to $2,150;
  • Allows students to choose a fixed or variable rate on their consolidation loans-which will save the typical borrower more than $5,500 over the life of a loan;
  • Eliminates student borrower loan fees-saving the typical borrower more than $500;
  • Allows students stuck with high interest rates to refinance their loans and get lower rates;
  • Provides $17,500 in loan forgiveness to qualified teachers, nurses and child care providers; and
  • Permits student borrowers to choose with which lender to consolidate their loans, repealing the anti-consumer Single Lender Rule.

Strengthening America's commitment to minority and first-generation students:

  • Significantly increases the investment in minority serving institutions;
  • Establishes a competitive grant program to expand advanced degree opportunities at colleges that serve large portions of Latino students; and
  • Establishes 'Centers of Excellence' to enhance teacher preparation for minority students.

Boosting college access and participation:

  • Boosts college participation among veterans, low-income and minority students by nearly doubling the investment in the critical college outreach programs, TRIO and Gear Up;
  • Establishes a new initiative to significantly raise college graduation rates; and
  • Replaces the current 144 question application with a one-page E-Z form, and establishes a procedure to give students early estimates of their federal student aid eligibility.

Making students and taxpayers - not profitable banks - the highest priority:

  • Eliminates loopholes that allow banks in the federal student loan program to fleece taxpayers-for billions of dollars every year. The money saved from closing the loopholes will be dedicated towards increasing Pell grant scholarships for low and moderate income students.

www.house.gov/georgemiller
______________________________________

Ellynne Bannon
House Education & the Workforce Committee
Democratic Staff
1107 Longworth House Office Building
Washington , D.C. 20515
(202) 226-2068 (p)

http://edworkforce.house.gov/democrats


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