While the state government’s commitment to education hangs in the balance with the Michigan Promise Scholarship, at least things are looking better for students nationwide. The U.S. House of Representatives recently passed an education bill with plenty of benefits for students, including more Pell Grant aid, a simpler FAFSA form and funding for numerous educational programs. With education the key to economic recovery, not just in Michigan but across the country, the necessity of this bill is clear. The Senate should approve the bill immediately so that students of all ages can finally catch a break.
The House of Representatives voted Thursday to pass a bill that would overhaul student financial aid. The Senate has not yet voted on the legislation, which would end subsidies to private lenders for college lending and replace private lending with direct government loans. The elimination of the subsidies would free up an estimated of $87 billion over the next decade for educational purposes by cutting private lenders out of the picture. Much of the additional money that would be available from the implementation of this bill would be used to increase Pell Grants by $40 billion. Pell Grants are the main source of federal college scholarships for low and moderate income students, and under the bill, the maximum award amount is set to rise from $5,350 per student to $5,550 next year, eventually increasing to $6,900 in 2019.
With students facing tuition increases and an ailing economy, increased financial aid is a must for college students. A greater availability of Pell Grants will allow more students to go to college and make it more affordable for others. Opponents of the bill worry that the elimination of the private college lending sector would also cost almost 30,000 jobs. But if the choice is between keeping college affordable and propping up private middlemen at students’ and taxpayers’ expense, it’s clear that Congress needs to put education first and support students’ aspirations to attend college.
As an added bonus, the House bill also includes provisions to streamline the cumbersome FAFSA form, which currently creates bureaucratic obstacles for many students seeking financial aid. The unnecessary complexity of FAFSA paperwork discourages many of the students in greatest need of aid from applying for aid at all, effectively making college less accessible for low-income families. Simplification of the FAFSA is both obviously necessary and long overdue.
But the proposed bill doesn’t stop with financial aid. It would also provide funding to modernize public schools ($4 billion), enhance early education programs ($8 billion) and assist overcrowded community colleges ($10 billion). In doing so, the bill will almost certainly raise the quality of child-care and the pre-school system. It would also provide support to community colleges struggling with an increased number of students due to the economic situation. Funding education at all levels is vitally important, and these provisions will help the United States improve its primary education system and community colleges.
A concerted government effort to improve the quality and affordability of the educational system is critical for the growth of the national economy and the success of students at all levels. The Senate should pass the House’s bill without delay — the future of our education system is depending upon it.