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September 17th, 2009
Congressman Grijalva Votes to Make Major Investments in College Affordability

Washington, D.C. – Today, the U.S. House of Representatives passed legislation that will make college even more affordable, at no new cost to taxpayers.

The Student Aid and Fiscal Responsibility Act (SAFRA) (H.R. 3221) will expand access to an affordable college education to more American students, transform early education opportunities, and build a world-class community college system. The passage of the SAFRA will help build a stronger, more competitive American economy for the future while saving taxpayers money.

The bill passed by 253 to 171.

As a member of the Education and Labor Committee, Congressman Raúl M. Grijalva worked to include language to improve the bill, including helping to extend the aid to Minority-Serving Institutions for 10 years, and to ensure that diversity and cultural awareness are integral parts of the early learning challenge grants. Mr. Grijalva’s amendment to add language that includes library services and information literacy as eligible support services was also added to the bill. Adjustments to the bill will also maintain the current subsidized loan levels for graduate students as opposed to the reductions proposed in the bills original draft.

“With tuition costs at both public and private colleges on the rise, this legislation will help America’s college students and their families with the rising costs of a higher education,” said Grijalva. “This bill will reform our higher education system so that it operates in the best interests of students and keeps our promise of making college more affordable for America’s low and middle-income families. It also takes vital steps to providing needed resources for early education for children most in need. Allowing our students to graduate with a better education and less debt is the best way to insure that American workers remain competitive long into the future.”

The bill is a major step forward in President Obama’s initiative to make sure America once again leads the world in college graduates by 2020. SAFRA will reform the system of federal student loans to save the taxpayers $87 billion and will direct $10 billion back to the Treasury to reduce entitlement spending. SAFRA will change the way the student loan system functions by originating new loans through the government’s Direct Loan program, but will maintain competition among private lenders and non-profits to provide top-notch customer service for student borrowers.

The legislation will also ensure that all federal student loan borrowers receive the best possible customer service when repaying their loans by forging a new public-private partnership that allows private lenders to compete for contracts to service loans – preserving a role for lenders and maintaining jobs in communities throughout the country.

With the largest-ever investment in higher education, this bill will also significantly increase government grant and loan assistance for college tuition payments. Pell Grants, already distributed to more than 7 million students, will increase to $6,900 by 2019 from $5,350 today. SAFRA also keeps interest rates low on government-subsidized loans, makes substantial investments in early childhood education, expands the Perkins low-cost loan program to every U.S. college, and simplifies the process of applying for student financial aid.

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