THIRD HIGHER EDUCATION EXTENSION ACT OF 2006 -- (House of Representatives - September 27, 2006)
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Mr. KILDEE. Mr. Speaker, I yield myself such time as I may consume, and I rise today in support of the Higher Education Extension Act.
First, I would like to recognize that there are items in here that we all agree are important and that will help students, including changes to the Hispanic-serving institutions program and loan forgiveness for 9/11 survivors and their families. These changes will ensure that Hispanic-serving institutions can continue to serve their important role in educating minority students and that families who fell victim to the terrible attacks of September 11 will have welcome financial relief.
Unfortunately, however, this extension is a reminder that we have failed to reauthorize the Higher Education Act, and H.R. 609, passed earlier this year, was only another missed opportunity to help students and families. H.R. 609 failed to restore the $12 billion raid on student aid that was included in the Budget Reconciliation Act.
These cuts come at a time when college costs are on the rise. At 4-year public colleges and universities, tuition has skyrocketed by 40 percent between 2001 and 2005. Additionally, this is really the first time that we have asked an entire generation to go deeply into debt in order to get a higher education. The typical student leaves college today with $17,500 in Federal loan debt.
Democrats would also boost the Pell Grant scholarships for students most in need. The value of Pell Grant scholarships are now worth nearly $1,000 less in inflation-adjusted terms than they were 30 years ago. My friends on the other side of the aisle may say that they have increased Pell Grants, but the only reason there is more appropriated for Pell Grants is because there are more and more students that qualify for those grants.
The only way to ensure that students receive meaningful aid through the Pell Grant program is to restore the purchasing power of the Pell Grant and significantly increase the maximum award.
Mr. Speaker, oftentimes I believe we have lost sight of what the Federal role is for higher education. It is to provide access to any and all qualified students to ensure they can get into higher education if they want to. I urge that we work together to provide real relief to students and families and reverse the raid on student aid.
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