Cantwell Applauds Significant Increase in Student Financial Aid
Legislation Will Make College More Affordable and Student Aid More Accessible
Thursday, U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA) applauded Senate passage of legislation making education more affordable and student aid more accessible for generations to come. The Higher Education Opportunity Act of 2008 provides significant increases in student financial aid. This bill advances key reforms that will help with the soaring price of college and remove barriers so all qualified students can attend college.
"For the first time in far too long, we are improving Higher Education and making it more accessible to all Americans," said Cantwell. "Over the past twenty years, the cost of college has tripled and more and more families have been priced out of better futures for their children as federal aid has fallen behind. This bill takes important steps to expand access to higher education for all Americans, and takes clear action to make college more affordable. That's a huge victory because the best guarantee of a good job in today's global economy is a quality education."
This bill focuses on four major areas: holding colleges more accountable for their costs; simplifying the application process for Federal financial aid; addressing the ethical scandals in the student loan marketplace; and expanding grant aid for the neediest students.
In addition, the Higher Education Opportunity Act would:
Requires the top 5 percent of colleges that have the greatest cost increases for their sector to submit detailed reports to the Secretary of Education explaining why their costs have risen, and what steps they will take to hold costs down;
Replaces the complex, 7-page Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) with a2-page "EZ-FAFSA";
Bans lenders from offering gifts to college officials as a condition of making student loans, and requires colleges to adopt a code of conduct regarding student loans;
Helps service members, veterans, and their families attend and pay for college by providing interest-free deferral on student loans while service members are on active duty, in-state tuition rates for service members and their families who move to a new state due to military service, and new college scholarships of up to $5,000 for children and family members of service members who have died since 9/11;
Allows low-income students to receive Pell Grants year-round, expands eligibility for the Academic Competitiveness and National SMART Grant programs to include part-time students, certificate programs, and students enrolled in programs that take 5 years of study, and expands Federal loan forgiveness for a wide variety of professions, including early childhood educators, principals, and school counselors.
In addition to the College Cost Reduction Act last year, which approved more than $20 million dollars in new federal aid for college students, this Act increases Pell Grants from $4,800 to $6,000 for 2009 and $8,000 for 2014. Low-income students can also receive Pell Grants year round and students with intellectual disabilities are eligible for Pell Grants and Federal Work-Study funds for the first time.
With the help of federal Pell Grants, Cantwell was the first member of her family to graduate from college. She has worked to make college affordable since taking office. After the president's 2008 budget proposal eliminated Perkins Loan funding and cut back funding for Pell Grants, Cantwell wrote letters to Budget Committee leaders asking them to restore the Perkins Loan funding and raise the maximum Pell Grant award.