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Senate Approves Coburn Amendment Ensuring Federal Student Aid Dollars Fund Education, Not Lobbyists

Press Release

Location: Washington, DC

The U.S. Senate today adopted an amendment by U.S. Senators Tom Coburn, M.D. (R-OK), Ted Kennedy (D-MA), and Mike Enzi (R-WY) to require institutions of higher education or other postsecondary educational institutions to annually demonstrate and certify to the Secretary of Education that neither direct federal funds or federal student aid was used to hire lobbyists or lobby the federal government for grants, including earmarks, loans, contracts, or cooperative agreements. The amendment passed by a vote of 93 to 0.

"Students and parents have a right to expect that skyrocketing education costs are improving education, not enriching lobbyists. The $127 million that colleges and universities spent on lobbying in 2005 and 2006 could have paid the full tuition of 21,760 students," Dr. Coburn said.

"Rising education costs have mirrored the explosive growth in university lobbying and congressional earmarking for universities. This amendment will make it easier to rein in what might be called a university lobbying industrial complex that serves politicians and lobbyists more than students and taxpayers," Dr. Coburn said.

"Current law only prohibits direct federal funds from being used to lobby but allows schools to spend tuition assistance for needy students to be spent to hire lobbyists," Dr. Coburn added. "Students struggling to pay for housing and tuition may not be able to afford a tutor, much less a lobbyist. These students should not be forced to pay higher tuition so their school can hire Washington lobbyists."

This transparency measure became necessary as the overall amounts spent by academic institutions for lobbying and by the federal government for schools and student aid have steadily grown along with the costs of education.

The total cost of earmarks for colleges and universities exceeded $9 billion between 1995 and 2003. At the same time, average annual tuition at public four-year institutions increased by 137 percent (from $2,357 to $5,836), and average annual tuition at private four-year universities doubled (from $10,952 to $22,218).

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