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Legislative Update by Congressman Mike Ross

Educating America’s Future
March 31, 2006
This week, the United States House of Representatives voted on and debated H.R. 609, the Higher Education Reauthorization Act.  I voted against this legislation because I believe we can do better by America’s students.  This legislation does very little to assist middle and low income American families pay for college. As parents, educators, and public officials we have a responsibility to ensure that students from pre-school to high school and beyond receive the highest quality education possible in order to provide them with the necessary tools they need to succeed in today’s complex and technological world. 

This legislation comes on the heels of $12 billion in cuts to federal student aid programs – cuts that I voted against three times and the largest cuts in the history of the program.  Additionally, this legislation comes just one week before Congress is expected to vote on the President’s Fiscal Year 2007 proposed budget which fully eliminates 42 Department of Education programs.  While the President claims to be committed to strengthening American competitiveness in today’s global economy, the President’s proposed FY2007 budget freezes the maximum Pell Grant for the fifth year in a row and denies more than 460,000 students low-cost college loans.  Since 2001 alone, the average price of tuition for a four year college education has risen by 40 percent; however, college students have received almost no additional assistance to overcome the rapidly rising costs.

This week, I voted in support of an alternative to the Higher Education Reauthorization Act.  This alternative would have cut interest rates in half for students with subsidized loans and create a predominantly Black Servings Institution program to boost college participation rates of low-income black students, repeal the anti-consumer single holder rule, and create a pilot program for year round Pell Grants. 

As the son of public school educators, I understand the vital role higher education plays in keeping America’s future on the cutting edge of today’s rapidly changing world.  The pursuit of education should not be limited to those with the means to afford the prohibitive and mounting cost of a public education.  I will continue to support programs to make a higher education accessible and affordable to all students who aim for a brighter future.

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