Congress Delivers Blow to the Affordability of Higher Education
Republican Bill Means Students Will Pay More for College
WASHINGTON - Congressman Dale E. Kildee (D-MI) voted today against the Republican-led reauthorization of the Higher Education Act, the main law governing federal college programs. The legislation passed by the House resulted in a missed opportunity to reverse a drastic cut in federal financial aid in February when the Republicans passed their budget. Kildee, ranking member of the 21st Century Competitiveness Subcommittee, helped lead the effort on the floor to promote substitute legislation to help families pay for college without increasing the cost to taxpayers by cutting the interest rates on student loans in half and removing certain wasteful subsidies to banks and lenders.
"Because of the Republican cuts to the student aid program in the February budget bill and the education bill they passed today, there are high school seniors in every town in America who will not get the chance to go to college this year or for the foreseeable future," Kildee said. "President Bush spoke in his State of the Union address about the need to keep America competitive in the global economy through an educated workforce. Today's action ignores that vision."
Two months ago, the Republican-led Congress voted to raid federal student aid programs of $12 billion to help pay for tax breaks for the wealthy in their budget reconciliation bill, successfully approving the largest cut in federal student financial aid in the 40 year history of the program. The Democratic substitute to H.R. 609, offered as an amendment on the floor today by Kildee, Rep. George Miller (D-CA), and other committee Democrats would have reversed that raid on student aid and helped students pay for college.
The Democratic substitute would have cut the interest rates on college loans for low- and middle-income families in half - from 6.8% to 3.4% - and significantly boosted the value of the maximum Pell Grant scholarship, the chief federal assistance program for low-income students. Instead, the Republican bill raises the maximum Pell Grant by just $200 and freezes it until 2013. The Democratic substitute was defeated along party lines, 220-200.
"The cost of tuition should never stand between a qualified student and a college education, yet today, too many students are deferring or forgoing college because of the high price tag," said Kildee. "We have a responsibility to invest in America's economic future by making college more affordable, by giving any student - regardless of socio-economic status - the opportunity to earn a college degree. We could have done that today, but tax breaks for the wealthy again took priority over educational opportunities for the children of working families."