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Public Statements

Statements on Introduced Bills and Joint Resolutions

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Location: Washington, DC

STATEMENTS ON INTRODUCED BILLS AND JOINT RESOLUTIONS -- (Senate - April 05, 2005)

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By Mr. OBAMA (for himself and Mr. INOUYE):

S. 697. A bill to amend the Higher Education Act of 1965 to improve higher education, and for other purposes; to the Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions.

Mr. OBAMA. Mr. President, I rise today to introduce the Higher Education Opportunity Through Pell Grant Expansion Act of 2005, or HOPE Act.

Right now, in schools, playgrounds, and backyards across America, children are dreaming about what they want to be when they grow up. As tomorrow's astronauts, doctors, and teachers dream about their futures, their parents know that so many of those dreams are dependent on a college diploma.

The families I have met in Illinois are worried that they might not be able to give their kids a chance at that diploma. Everywhere I go, I hear the same story: we work hard, we pay our bills, we cut corners, and we put away savings, but we just don't know if it is going to be enough when the tuition bill comes in the mail.

The facts and statistics are not encouraging. College tuition is rising at a stunning rate of almost 10 percent a year, and over the last 25 years it is gone up an astounding 519 percent. Because of these rising prices, over 200,000 students were priced out of a college education last year.

In a country with so much wealth and opportunity for education, it is difficult to imagine there are parents who are forced to say to their kids: ``We're sorry. We can't afford to send you to college.'' None of us in the Senate should rest until those parents can start saying ``yes'' to their kids.

This bill would start us down that path by increasing access to Pell grants. Today, these need-based awards are used by 5.3 million undergraduate students to fund their education. Unfortunately, the awards just haven't kept up with the rising price of tuition or even inflation. As a result, the current $4,050 Pell grant maximum is $700 less in real terms than the maximum grant 30 years ago. Pell grants now cover only 23 percent of the total cost of the average 4-year public college.

The HOPE Act would correct this problem by raising the Pell grant maximum to $5,100, and it would continue to raise this maximum in future years to keep up with inflation. The bill also would make sure that no student sees a reduction in Pell grant assistance due to recent changes in the eligibility formula.

Because working families are already burdened with too many taxes, this bill would not add to the deficit or raise a dime of taxes. Instead, it will close two loopholes that guarantee banks and private lenders an additional $2 billion in taxpayer subsidies every year on top of the interest that college students and their families are already paying on their loans. In a country where 200,000 students were priced out of college last year, our tax dollars shouldn't be spent subsidizing banks that are already making record profits.

When our children dream about their future, they need to know those dreams are within their reach. A college education forms the foundation of the opportunity society that will keep this country strong and growing in the 21st century. I know we can work together to get this done, and I look forward to doing so.

I urge my colleagues to support the HOPE Act.

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