A stronger student aid program

Posted: 09/18/09

The Student Aid and Fiscal Responsibility Act, which I recently voted for in the House of Representatives, is the single largest investment in aid to help students and families pay for college. The passage of this bill will not only help a student graduate with less debt, but eases the financial aid application process, stabilizes the student loan program, invests in education, and helps us build a stronger, more competitive American economy.

Larger Pell Grants and the expansion of low-cost loans put students’ needs first. Funds available under this bill will help provide needed support for the growing number of student aid applicants and help students graduate with less debt. Over the next 10 years, the bill allows us to invest nearly $500 million in Pell Grants to Wisconsin students. In the Third Congressional District alone, this increases the total number of students receiving grants by 75 percent and more than doubles the amount of funding for grant awards, over today’s amounts.

This legislation also helps simplify the federal student aid application process, making the FAFSA form easier to fill out and allowing students and families to apply for aid using the information on tax returns.

More affordable interest rates and more low-cost federal loans will be available by strengthening the Perkins Loan program through more reliable funding from the government. Through a less expensive, streamlined program run by the Department of Education, we will be able to stabilize the federal student loan program, preventing parents and students from worrying about whether or not fluctuations in the financial market will hurt their access to low-cost student loans. In addition, this program will eliminate the lending middleman, lowering interest rates, saving taxpayers $87 billion over 10 years. The private lending industry will continue to play a role in a public-private partnership by servicing loans; ensuring students get the best loan education and customer service available and preserving jobs in our communities.

Savings generated from this bill will be used to reduce the deficit by $10 billion and will also be invested right back into education. In Wisconsin, this legislation invests $2 million a year for the next five years in college access and completion support programs to help increase financial literacy and help institutions retain and graduate students. The bill also invests in our community colleges, helping reinforce partnerships among schools, businesses and job training programs and providing the tools necessary to successfully educate and train a workforce for the 21st Century. An Early Learning Challenge Fund, based on a bill I introduced previously and have championed for years, will be established to increase quality learning opportunities for low-income children, ensuring the next generation of students has the skills they need to succeed in school. Investments will also be made in school modernization, renovation, and repair projects in order to provide world-class learning environments for our children.

Investing in our students is investing in our future. We must make sure students have the tools they need to reach their academic potential, enabling them to succeed in this growing global economy.