A Strong Foundation for Higher Education
Over the past decade, House Republicans have worked hard to make a college education more accessible to more individuals throughout the country. Our work on higher education has created more opportunities for students to seek and acquire higher education degrees, and contrary to recent claims, student aid funding has never been higher. I will continue to work to make higher education an opportunity for all Americans.
In recent years, college tuition has been on a steady increase. In Virginia, in-state undergraduates saw an average increase of 8 percent in tuition and fees in 2005, in addition to an average 9 percent increase the year before and a 15 percent increase two years before. According to the Advisory Committee on Student Financial Assistance, cost factors prevent nearly half of all college-qualified high school graduates from attending a four-year institution, and 22 percent from attending college at all this despite the $90 billion in federal aid to help defray the rising cost of college.
To help improve access to higher education, Republicans committed $13 billion for Pell Grantsa two-thirds increase over the past decadeand created a grant program for high achieving Pell students. We also increased loan limits to give students access to more financial aid, lowered loan fees so students can keep more of what they borrow, and increased the loan relief for highly qualified math, science and special education teachers.
Last year, we cut billions in federal subsidies paid to student loan lenders, producing substantial savings for U.S. taxpayers and ensuring student loan programs operated effectively for U.S. students. To better ensure students and parents can save wisely for college, we extended college savings plans, commonly referred to as "529 plans", which allow parents to invest after-tax dollars in state-sponsored funds. Both the earnings on the investment, as well as the distributions to help pay for college, are free from federal taxes, allowing families to invest their hard-earned dollars in a quality education.
Last week, the House passed a modest education bill that will reduce interest rates on student loans for a brief period. While I supported this measure as a step forward, I was disappointed that the bill did not do more to make college affordable for more Americans. We can do better, and thanks to Republican-led efforts over the past decade, we have created a strong foundation to build on.
However, increased access to higher education cannot rely on federal dollars alone. Higher education institutions must also take responsibility for their role in the escalating costs of tuition and we must find ways to bring rapidly rising tuition and fees under control.
Education is a lifelong process and opens the doors to numerous opportunities. I will continue to work in Congress to make those opportunities more viable for current and future students.