DEPARTMENTS OF LABOR, HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES, AND EDUCATION, AND RELATED AGENCIES APPROPRIATIONS ACT, 2006 -- (Senate - October 26, 2005)
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Mr. OBAMA. Mr. President, I rise today to express my disappointment in the failure of this body to approve an amendment offered yesterday by Senator KENNEDY to increase the financial support provided to students though the Pell Grant program.
Pell Grants represent by far the largest source Federal grant aid for postsecondary education and provide necessary financial support for many students. My support of this amendment echoes the first piece of legislation I introduced in the Senate and a promise I made during my Senate campaign. That promise, and that legislation, was the Higher Education Opportunity through Pell Grant Expansion Act of 2005, S.697--the HOPE Act. My statement today expresses my continuing efforts on behalf of students who need our support to continue their education.
Many students know that realizing their dreams depends on a college diploma, and, for many, the chance to earn that diploma is dependent on the Pell Grant program. As students dream of that diploma, they also worry about how to pay for it. The statistics confirm their worries. College tuition is rising almost 1 percent a year, and over the last 25 years, it's gone up more than fivefold. Because of these rising prices, over 200,000 students were priced out of college altogether just last year.
Today, need-based Pell Grants are used by 5.3 million undergraduate students, and 85 percent of these grants go to families earning less than $40,000. Over too long of a period, the amount of these awards has not kept up with the spiraling price of tuition or even with the rate of inflation. As a result, the current $4,050 Pell Grant maximum is insufficient.
This amendment would have raised that amount to $4,250, and represented one step toward making college more affordable for those students who have worked hard to keep alive their hope of earning a college diploma. Even in this time of shared sacrifice, I believe we must continue to support those hopes and the students who deserve a chance to turn them into reality. This remains a priority for me. Despite yesterday's vote, I will continue to work to increase support for our students though the Pell Grant Program.