Recent Speeches

Mrs. FEINSTEIN.  Mr. President.  I am pleased that the Senate passed today a five-year extension of the Higher Education Act to renew major programs that help ensure our nation’s students attain a college degree.  

This legislation, with strong bipartisan support, also includes new measures to address rising college costs and would reform the student loan system so that it better serves students.

Last week, the Senate passed an important piece of legislation that will provide over $17 billion in new grant aid to low-income college students -- $2.5 billion of which would go to help California’s students afford college.

Nationwide, students and their families are struggling to pay the growing costs of a college education.  

Four-year public university costs increased 52 percent, while the median family income only increased 3 percent during the school years from 1995-96 to 2005-06.

In California, even after financial aid is taken into account, 33 percent  of the median family income is needed to pay for one year of college at a four-year public college.
As a result, many students rely on loans to finance their education -- the percentage of undergraduates at four-year public colleges with student loans has risen to 66 percent, especially among low-income students.

At the same time, lenders have been provided substantial government subsidies beyond what is required for participation and competition. 

Specifically, this Bill Would:

  • Raise the authorized level for the Pell Grant maximum award by $1,990 over five years – from the current $4,310 level to $6,300.  
  • Authorize the U.S. Department of Education to award competitive grants for Teacher Preparation Programs that help recruit and retain high-quality teachers in high-need schools.
  • Improve programs that help low-income middle and high school students prepare for college.  For example, GEAR UP program grantees, which serve over 150,000 California students, would be permitted to use funds for tutoring, extended school day programs or scholarships.
  • Create a nationwide “Higher Education Price Increase Watch List” of colleges whose costs are increasing at a rate greater than other schools and create a higher education price comparison index to help students and parents compare college tuition costs.
  • Require colleges to recommend lenders to their students based on the best interests of the students.  It also prohibits payments from lenders to schools that create conflicts of interest.  
  • Simplify student financial aid forms by creating a new two-page form for low-income students, and phasing out the current ten-page form for all applicants within 5 years.

The key reforms in this legislation will help ensure that college is more affordable for our young people and that they receive the education they deserve to succeed in our global economy.  I am pleased that the Senate passed this important legislation today.