By Tonya Malinowski
Congressman Christopher Murphy came to CCSU Friday to discuss the Fiscal Aid and Responsibility Act passed by the House of Representatives this week.
The bill allocates $87 billion over ten years in federal funding for higher education and an increase for Pell grants and is the largest investment in student aid in the history of the United States.
“As a Connecticut resident who is currently paying back student loans, my wife and I both understand the burden of student loans on young families,” said Murphy, representative of Connecticut’s fifth district.
The bill removes subsidy programs through private lenders and instead allows student loans to go directly through the government. Because the government no longer has to pay these subsidies, the savings go directly back into higher education.
“It’s done through absolutely no cost to the taxpayers of this country,” said Murphy. “It also puts the $10 billion left over back into the deficit.”
The Pell Grant, currently capped at $5,350 per student per academic year will be raised to $5,500 next year and nearly $7,000 by 2019. It also indexes the grant to the cost of living, with the maximum rising along with the Consumer Price Index plus an additional one percent.
“We pat the House of Representatives on the back for helping make college more affordable,” said Dennis Williams, associate director of financial aid.
The bill passed by a 253 to 171 vote and is expected to pass through senate rather quickly. All colleges would then be required to have the direct loan program in use by July 1, 2010.
Ten million dollars of the act is reserved exclusively for community college funding, and another $10 billion for early childhood education programs.
Murphy, in his second term as congressman, believes that there need to be even more colleges investing in this program and even more federal funding given to states to help control the price of tuition at public universities.“I don’t think there even is a downside to this,” Murphy said. “I hope with this we can get more students through the doors here at CCSU.”
Subsidized and unsubsidized Stafford loans are maintained by the act, but the interest rates will become fixed at 3.4 percent.
“I’m amazed at what it’s doing,” Student Government Association President Andrew Froning said. “It will make FAFSA so much easier and help students be able to actually get through it and be able to access that money.”
The bill also has allotments for tuition abatement and scholarships for veterans along with the increase in funding for the Pell Grant, which currently helps over 12,000 students in the state Connecticut.
Murphy said the most important thing is being proactive in getting the bill passed by Senate and getting into action as quickly as possible.
“We will not just keep our fingers crossed that this bill passes,” he said.