Recent Speeches

Mrs. FEINSTEIN.  Mr. President.  I rise today in support of the Higher Education Reconciliation Bill that would increase critical grant aid to our nation’s neediest college students, help make loan repayment more manageable and encourage students to pursue careers in public service.

It is crucial that we help make college more affordable and accessible for students at a time when they are struggling to pay skyrocketing college costs and taking on more debt to pay for school.

In California alone, the cost of attending a four-year public college increased 43 percent  between the school years of 2000-2001 and 2005-2006.

Furthermore, 46 percent  of California students graduating from four-year colleges in the 2004-2005 school year had student loan debt – at an average of over $15,200. Nationwide, almost two-thirds of all four-year college graduates had loan debt.

What is even more concerning is that many students are being shut out of college altogether.

Each year, more than 400,000 low and moderate income high school graduates who are fully prepared to attend a four-year college do not do so because of financial barriers.

It is imperative that all students seeking a college education have an opportunity to achieve their goals and this bill takes important steps to provide much-needed relief to students across the country.

Specifically, this Bill Would:

  • Provide $17.3 billion in new grant aid to low-income college students.
  • Increase the maximum award for Pell Grant recipients to $5,100 in 2008 and to $5,400 in 2011.  The current amount is $4,310 and this means low-income California students will be eligible for an additional $290.9 million in need-based grant aid next year, and an additional $2.5 billion over the next five years.
  • Increase the family income level under which a student is automatically eligible for the maximum Pell Grant from $20,000 to $30,000.
  • Eliminate the “tuition sensitivity” provision in the Pell Grant program’s eligibility formula that unfairly penalizes our neediest students who attend low-cost institutions, such as community colleges, from receiving the maximum Pell Grant award.  In California, over 260,000 community college students would benefit.

I was pleased to work with my friend and colleague, Senator Boxer, as the lead cosponsor of legislation to eliminate this unfair provision.

  • Cap Federal student loan payments at 15 percent of a borrower’s discretionary income providing needed relief to students with high loan burdens.
  • Provide new loan forgiveness under the Federal Direct Loan program for individuals in public service careers for 10 years, such as teaching, nursing or law enforcement.  It would include Head Start Teachers and expands on a proposal that I have been working on for several years to provide loan forgiveness to educators in this important field.
  • Eliminates the three-year limitation on the period for which certain members of the armed forces may receive deferments on the interest on their student loans.  It also extends this deferment period to cover 180 days after such a member of the armed forces is demobilized.
  • Extends the amount of time student borrowers can receive a deferment for economic hardship from three to six years.  Would apply to borrowers who take out their first loan after October 1, 2012.

This legislation would bring significant help to many low-income California students and those across the country who would otherwise not be able to afford a college education.

A college degree is more important than ever to ensure success in today’s global economy and we must help provide students that need it most with the
resources necessary to reach their highest potential.

I urge my colleagues to support this important legislation.  Thank you very much.