Castor Champions Student Financial Aid Legislation
Sep 15, 2009 -
The Student Aid and Fiscal Responsibility Act, cosponsored by Florida Congresswoman Kathy Castor, is poised to pass the U.S. House of Representatives this week. Castor says the Act, which is the single largest investment in higher education in history, will make the cost of attending college more affordable for hundreds of thousands of Florida students and families through increases in the Pell Grant and expanded loans.
Over the next 10 years, the legislation will invest more than $2.2 billion in Florida and $106 million in the Tampa Bay area to increase the Pell Grant award. Roughly 430,000 Florida students, including approximately 24,000 in Castor's congressional district, will be eligible for a Pell Grant in the 2010-11 school year.
“More students throughout Florida will have access to increased grants and affordable student loans at a time when families are being squeezed by the economy. Florida universities and community colleges will benefit greatly,” Castor said. “We also will put an end to the sometimes shady and deceptive practices of the private student loan industry, standing up against special interests and giving students and their families peace of mind that their loans are sound and reliable.”
Beginning next year, all new federal student loans will be issued as U.S. Department of Education Direct Loans rather than through the Federal Family Education Loan Program, which relied on private lenders. Private lenders can remain involved by servicing student loans. This change will provide more stability and security in student loans while saving U.S. taxpayers an estimated $87 billion over 10 years.
The Student Aid and Fiscal Responsibility Act expands access to an affordable college education. It invests $40 billion to increase the annual Pell Grant, from $5,350 in 2009 to $5,550 in 2010 and to $6,900 by 2019. Approximately 6 million undergraduate and graduate students received Pell Grants in 2007-08.
“With the price of college steadily increasing, too many students are forced to make tough choices when trying to figure out how to pay for college,” Castor said. “Due to our efforts and support from President Obama, a college education will be more affordable and more accessible. A college education always has been critical, but is even more valued today as the fabric of our workforce changes and we prepare students for 21st century jobs.”
University of South Florida psychology major Aubrey Rushing is one student who looks forward to an increase in the amount of student loans. Aubrey is juggling a full course load with a full-time job so she can pay for her college education.
“I took out a significant amount of loans,” Aubrey said. “The Pell Grant is a little bit each year that helps me out a lot with college expenses. It would help me out a lot if it were larger. It’s hard to make ends meet when you’re in college.”
The Student Aid and Fiscal Responsibility Act also bolsters the Perkins federal student loan program by expanding it to every college in the United States. In addition, lower, more stable interest rates on need-based federal student loans will be available.
Castor is particularly pleased that the legislation calls for a simplified FAFSA, or Free Application for Federal Student Aid, form. Because the existing form is so cumbersome, Castor held her first of her annual financial aid workshops in May to help students and parents understand and complete the paperwork. Students and families at Castor’s workshop consistently expressed concerns that the forms were too complicated. They wanted a more streamlined process and simpler forms.
“The simpler student aid application form will open more doors for students and their families,” Castor said.
Click here to watch the video of Rep. Castor's statement on the House floor