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Issue Position: Education

Issue Position

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Issue Position: Education

Education is the cornerstone to building America's future. We must make a national commitment to education by strengthening our schools, fully funding special education, and modernizing our classrooms. At the same time, we must work to reduce class size, put in place the means for students to attain higher education, and make sure that we have the best trained, most qualified teachers in the world. Democrats are committed to providing high quality education to all of America's students, creating a nation ready for the challenges of the 21st century.

Legislation in the 110th Congress:

Largest college aid expansion since the GI Bill in 1944

Because a college education is as important today as high school was a generation ago, the Democratic-led House passed landmark legislation to make college more accessible and affordable for all Americans. The College Cost Reduction and Access Act makes the largest increase in college aid since the GI Bill in 1944, boosting college aid by roughly $20 million dollars over the next five years. The bill was signed into law in September of 2007.

With the College Cost Reduction and Access Act, the maximum value of the Pell Grant scholarship will increase by $1,090 over the next five years, reaching $5,400 by 2012, up from $4,050 in 2006, thus restoring the Pell's purchasing power. Some students will see an immediate boost of almost $500 in their Pell Grant scholarship in the 2008-2009 school year alone. Roughly 5.5 million low- and moderate-income students will benefit from this increase.

The legislation will also cut interest rates on need-based student loans in half, from 6.8 percent to 3.4 percent, over the next four years. Once fully phased-in, this will save the typical student borrower - with $13,800 in need-based student loan debt - $4,400 over the life of the loan. About 6.8 million students take out need-based loans each year.

No one should be denied the opportunity to go to college simply because of the price, yet unfortunately, that has been what many American families have been forced to do. Tuition at four-year public colleges has grown by 35 percent in the last five years. Students and families are taking on increasing amounts of debt, and each year nearly 200,000 students are holding off going to college, or skipping it altogether, because they cannot afford it.

Uninterrupted access to low-cost student loans, despite credit crunch

In recent months, turmoil in the U.S. credit markets has made it difficult for some lenders in the federally guaranteed student loan program to secure the capital needed to finance college loans, leading some lenders to scale back their lending activity. While no student or college has reported any problems accessing federal student aid to date, it is only prudent for the federal government to make sure that contingency plans are in place that would provide students and families with continued, uninterrupted access to federal loans, regardless of what's happening in the credit markets. The Ensuring Continued Access to Student Loans Act of 2008 provides new protections, in addition to those in current law, to ensure that families can continue to access the loans they need to pay for college.

Giving colleges incentives to rein in tuition increases

A college education continues to be the best path to the middle class. But more and more, high college prices and other obstacles are putting a college degree further out of reach for America's students. In addition to rising tuition, students and their families face an overly complex federal student aid application process and a student loan industry mired in conflicts of interest and corrupt lending practices.

The College Opportunity and Affordability Act, which will continue this Congress' effort to make college more affordable and accessible. This bill would reform our higher education system so that it operates in the best interests of students and families, while boosting our competitiveness and strengthening our future.

Head Start preschool improved and expanded

The Improving Head Start for School Readiness Act will reinvigorate Head Start and help more children arrive at kindergarten ready to succeed. The bipartisan legislation improves teacher and classroom quality, strengthens Head Start's focus on school readiness, expands access to Head Start for more children, ensures that centers are well-run, boosts coordination between Head Start and state and local programs, and improves comprehensive services that help children by helping their families.

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