STATEMENT OF SENATOR EDWARD M. KENNEDY ON HIGHER EDUCATION LEGISLATION (As Prepared for Delivery)
(As Prepared for Delivery)
From our earliest days as a nation, education has been the mainstay of our democracy and theengine of the American dream. Our nation’s founders knew that an educated citizenry wouldstrengthen our land and build up the values and character that make us Americans. Theyinvested in education because they looked to the future and saw an even greater America overthe glowing horizon.
We looked forward when we passed the GI bill. And it allowed service men and womencoming back from the Second World War to get a college education. They became theGreatest Generation. The GI bill produced 67,000 doctors, 91,000 scientists, 238,000teachers, and 450,000 engineers. It funded the education of three Presidents, three SupremeCourt Justices and about a dozen Senators who served in this very chamber.That is the kind of vision we have had in America when it comes to education. And it is ourvision today as we reclaim our destiny and invest once again in the next generation.In these past few days, we have made a new promise to American students and families: apromise to invest more as a nation to ensure that all of our young people, regardless ofbackground, get the education they deserve and the training they need to succeed in today’sglobal economy.
We have pledged here in the United States Senate that it doesn’t matter where you’re from.What matters is where you’re going. And no American should be denied the right to go tocollege because of money.
Last week, we showed this commitment again when we made another new promise tostudents, providing them with the largest new investment in student aid since the GI bill. Weincreased the Pell Grant by more than $1,000. We provided relief for student loans by sayingyour monthly payments will never exceed 15 percent of your monthly income. We said if youbecome a teacher, a firefighter or enter other public service jobs, your loans will be forgivenafter ten years.
The bill before us brings about other key reforms that will make college more affordable toyoung Americans.
Our legislation will take steps to ensure that the student loan system is working in the bestinterest of students, by pursuing needed ethics reforms in the student loan industry.
It will simplify the federal financial aid application and delivery process, to ensure thata complex system does not work as a barrier to access for low-income students.It demands that colleges do their part to keep college costs down – if we do our partto provide needed student aid, they must do their part to keep their tuition and feesreasonable.
And it will reform and improve our teacher preparation system. Teachers are thebackbone of our K-12 educational system, and this bill will promote high-quality teacherpreparation programs, and help recruit and retain high-quality teachers in high-need schoolsI would like to thank all of my colleagues on the Committee for the work they put into thislegislation. I especially thank Senator Mike Enzi, our Ranking Member, for all of his leadershipon this bipartisan legislation.
And I would like all of the staff who worked so hard over the past few months to make thishappen.
This legislation received unanimous bipartisan support in Committee, and I hope to see thatsame broad support today. We know education is the real key to opportunity. This legislationreflects that knowledge. It is a commitment I believe we must make to ensure educationalopportunity to each and every young person in this country. I urge the Senate to approve thisimportant legislation. Our students deserve nothing less.
Laura Burton Capps/ Melissa Wagoner (202) 224-2633