SECOND HIGHER EDUCATION EXTENSION ACT OF 2006 -- (House of Representatives - June 21, 2006)
BREAK IN THE TRANSCRIPT
Mr. KILDEE. Mr. Speaker, I yield myself such time as I may consume.
Mr. Speaker, I rise today to support H.R. 5603, a 3-month extension of the Higher Education Act. I have enjoyed working with the new chairman of the subcommittee Mr. Keller on this bill.
This bill, in essence, temporarily extends the last portions of the Higher Education Act not reauthorized in the reconciliation package.
During the 1998 reauthorization, I had the opportunity to work closely with Chairman McKeon, now chairman of the full committee, in crafting a bipartisan bill. Our reauthorization attempts this Congress have been a little more rocky than in 1998. Most of the hard-hitting changes to the Higher Education Act and student aid have already been passed in reconciliation, which I opposed. That action forever removed nearly $12 billion from student aid programs and missed an opportunity to reinvest in students who are already struggling to pay for college.
In response, along with Representative Miller, I recently introduced a bill called the Reverse the Raid on Student Aid Act, H.R. 5150. This bill would have cut interest rates in half for students and parents taking out subsidized loans, the borrowers most in need. This bill would save the average borrower already saddled with $17,500 in debt $6,600 over the life of their loan.
The consideration and passage of the Reverse the Raid on Student Aid Act is a critical investment in our global competitiveness and would offer real relief to students and families in need.
Let's set the record straight on Pell. Today we will hear about Republican support of Pell Grants. Yes, overall, spending on Pell Grants is on the rise, but Pell Grants are semientitlement programs, which means that if eligible students apply for Federal financial aid, they automatically get a Pell Grant. The increased spending they referred to is not because we are doing more to help individual students struggling to pay for college; this is because more students qualify, and more students are going to college. In other words, Mr. Speaker, we have more poor students that need our help.
In reality, the individual Pell Grant has seen no meaningful increase in the last 5 years. In fact, Pell Grants today are worth $900 less in inflation-adjusted terms than they were in the 1975-1976 school year.
Until the appropriators restore the actual buying power of the Pell Grant to the $5,100 level promised by our President 6 years ago, we have not done anything meaningful in helping the students and families struggling to pay for college.
As we worked towards reauthorizing the remainder of the higher education through H.R. 609 in March, I had hoped we could change the tone of debate and act in the interest of the students that the Higher Education Act was intended to help. Unfortunately, in the end, my concerns in the bill still far outweighed any benefit. The bill that was considered was not something I considered comfortable to support, and, for that reason, opposed it.
Again, I would like to thank Chairman Keller and Chairman McKeon for offering H.R. 5603, the 3-month extension of the Higher Education Act. And because we still have time to work on this, and hopefully things can change, we can achieve some repair work, repair of the reconciliation act. I will support this and have cosponsored the bill.
Mr. Speaker, I reserve the balance of my time.
BREAK IN THE TRANSCRIPT