College Parents of America is a member of the Student Aid Alliance, a coalition of organizations who believe that all qualified students should be able to go to college, regardless of their financial circumstances. Because the federal government plays such a pivotal role in ensuring postsecondary educational opportunity, the Alliance places a high emphasis on influencing policies in Washington that affect student aid.

Following are some of the Student Aid Alliance’s key legislative priorities for this year. I encourage you to review the talking points below and, if you agree with their direction, to utilize them in conversations that you may have with your elected officials or, even better, to write to those officials directly with your concerns.

  • The Student Aid Alliance requests that Congress provide a $3 billion increase for the federal student aid programs in FY 2005, and a long-range plan to continue this investment in the future.
  • The president’s plan would freeze the Pell Grant maximum at $4,050 for the third year in a row; eliminate funding for LEAP state grants and Perkins loans that go directly to students; and, would provide no increases for additional grant aid, work-study, early intervention programs, or graduate education programs.
  • This means there will be no increase in grant aid for the most needy of Pell Grant recipients, and that these same students will have to work more off-campus, and borrow more to pay for college. This takes time and energy that students should be spending in class and studying to work towards their degree.
  • There is overwhelming evidence that a college education makes more productive workers and better citizens. The strength of the nation’s economy and national security depends on increasing the ability of future generations of students to obtain a college degree.
  • We know that gains in education contribute to the economy. Increasing the country’s average level of education by even one year can boost economic growth by up to 15 percent, and increased educational attainment also accounts for more than a quarter of U.S. productivity gains.
  • While we recognize that the federal deficit is an issue, cutting funding for student aid is not the right way to help pay it down. The student aid budget represents less than 1 percent of the total federal budget. If total federal spending is $2.4 trillion, and student aid spending is only $16 billion, there must be some room in between to provide increases for these programs to work. In fact, investing in student aid will help to lower the deficit over time by creating educated, employable individuals who pay taxes and contribute to the economy.
  • Congress needs to provide more budget authority so that more low-income students can get a college degree. We know that getting a high school diploma isn’t enough anymore – o ver 80% of the 23 million jobs that will be created in the next 10 years will require postsecondary education.
  • With state funding on the decline, and projected enrollment growth on the rise, we face a massive access crisis without a substantial investment in student aid. College enrollment is slated to grow by 19 percent between now and 2015, making federal student aid even more essential than it has ever been as a means of ensuring that all of America’s young people are allowed to reach their potential.

Currently, the federal government provides 73 percent of all student aid. Without that aid, millions of students either could not attend college, or would have to drastically change their college schedule, working long hours while also trying to attain their degree.

In previous columns, I have written about proposed improvements to the student loan program, as well as critical changes that are needed to make the tax code more “college-parent friendly.” College Parents of America is also an enthusiastic supporter of the Student Aid Alliance and, with your help, we can become a key component of the group’s success in getting its policies adopted. Please e-mail us at info@collegeparents.org , if you would like to get involved in supporting our loan, tax or aid initiatives at the local, state or national level.

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