SENATOR EDWARD M. KENNEDY ON HIGHER EDUCATION BILL OPENING THE DOORS FOR OPPORTUNITY (As prepared for delivery)
Education has always been the engine of the American dream.
But rising college costs will make that dream fade away unless we act.
Each year, 400,000 talented young high school graduates cannot afford to go to college. Andmillions who do attend college are saddled with debts that leave them behind for years andyears to come.
We are a better nation than that -- a nation that believes in promise and opportunity for all ofour citizens.
Our legislation begins to match our resources with our vision. It takes the fat from the banksand lenders and gives it back to students in the largest increase in student aid since the GIBill.
Twenty years ago, the maximum Pell Grant covered 55 percent of costs at a public four-yearcollege. Today, it covers only a third. As a result, students are sinking deeper and deeper intostudent loan debt.
Today, the average student leaves college with more than $19,000 in student loan debt.That’s not acceptable. And we’re going to change that.
The bill we’re debating on the floor today will provide more than $17 billion to help studentsand families pay for college.
We’re going to:• Immediately increases the Pell Grant• Cap student loan payments at 15 percent of monthly income;• Provide for longer deferments in loan repayments for students facing economichardship;• Forgive the loans of those who enter public service jobs• Cut excessive lender subsidiesIt’s time to stand up for students. It’s time to give them the tools they need to succeed andit’s time we pass this bill and open to the doors of opportunity to a new generation ofAmericans.