Speaker Nancy Pelosi spoke on the House floor this afternoon in support of the Student Aid and Fiscal Responsibility Act of 2009, which will boost Pell Grant scholarships, keep interest rates on federal loans affordable, create a more reliable and effective financial aid system for families. The House will vote on the legislation tomorrow. Below are the Speaker's remarks:
"Thank you Madam Speaker. Thank you to the Chairman for giving me this opportunity to come to the floor in strong support of the Student Aid and Fiscal Responsibility Act. I do so because education is the best investment individuals can make in themselves, parents can make in their children, and a nation can make in its citizens and in its future.
"Today is possible because of the leadership of the distinguished Chairman of the Education and Labor Committee, Congressman Mr. George Miller. Students across the country have no better advocate for affordable and accessible higher education. Thank you, Mr. Miller.
"I would also like to acknowledge the Chairman of the Subcommittee on Higher Education, Lifelong Learning, and Competitiveness -- I love that trio of jurisdiction -- and a national leader on college affordability: Congressman Ruben Hinojosa. To them and to all of the Members of the Education and Labor Committee, we are all in your debt.
"We all know that for every additional year of higher education, an individual's earnings increase about 10 percent. We know that education is key to the prosperity of our nation. The prosperity of the individual; the prosperity of the nation.
"But for far too many, a quality higher education has been simply unaffordable. I've heard cases where parents have been hesitant to encourage their children to strive for college because they can't afford to send them. What sadder testimony could there be for the prospects for that person?
"Expanding access to higher education is essential to building America's way out of recession and keeping our nation competitive.
"Innovation begins in the classroom, and it is essential that we prepare our students for 21st century jobs by providing all Americans with the skills they need to compete.
"When Democrats gained the majority in 2007, we passed the bipartisan College Cost Reduction and Access Act. That was the single largest investment in education since the GI Bill of 1944. Until today.
"This legislation makes the single largest investment in making college more affordable in the history of our nation.
"On the 100th day of President Obama's presidency, in the House and in the Senate, we passed a budget. The President had three pillars for turning the economy around for creating jobs in that budget. To do so, to create jobs, to give tax breaks to the middle class, and to reduce the deficit. And the three pillars for turning the economy around and creating jobs were investments in education, in health care, and in a new energy policy for good green jobs for the future.
"We are passing legislation to support the education pillar of that budget. Again, education is essential to the fulfillment of individuals, competitiveness of our nation, and it is the foundation of our democracy.
"This bill is a great bill and I want to reiterate what others have said. It invests $40 billion in Pell Grants, and increases the maximum grant that can be awarded -- that makes a big difference to our students -- invests more $2.5 billion in historically black colleges and universities and minority serving institutions -- a big issue for Mr. Hinojosa and many of us here. It strengthens the Perkins Loan program that provides low cost loans to students. It keeps interest rates low for those who have federal student loans- this is very important. This means that more students who enter college, that they will graduate with less debt and that the federal loan initiatives that they and their families depend upon are strengthened for decades to come. And on top of all of that, taxpayers will save money.
"Under Mr. Miller's leadership, we are investing in our children, without heaping mountains of debt upon them. This legislation is fiscally responsible, following the strict standards of the pay-as-you-go spending and saving for the taxpayer.
"You've heard all the things they've said about Pell Grants and college investments and Perkins loans and interest rates. Well, with the $87 billion in taxpayer savings that this bill achieves, we are able to do all of that by switching to a direct loan program. So it invests $77 billion dollars back into the education of our people while reducing the federal entitlement spending by $10 billion dollars -- that's billion with a B.'
"This legislation seizes the opportunity to strengthen our nation by making a historic commitment to our students and a landmark investment in our future. I urge my colleagues to join the distinguished Chairman and Members of the Committee in a bipartisan way and vote aye."