Magazine article Diverse Issues in Higher Education

Student Groups Mount Aggressive Campaign to Halt Financial Aid Cuts

Magazine article Diverse Issues in Higher Education

Student Groups Mount Aggressive Campaign to Halt Financial Aid Cuts

Article excerpt

Student groups and others are mounting an aggressive, last-ditch effort to stop $12.7 billion in student aid cuts that still require one more affirmative vote on Capitol Hill.

At issue are cuts to student loan programs that are likely to bring higher interest rates for parents or students borrowing funds for college (see Diverse, Jan. 26). These cutbacks make up about one-third of a $39 billion deficit reduction bill that many lawmakers thought they would finish in December.

While both the House of Representatives and the Senate narrowly approved the plan in December, a late parliamentary maneuver by Senate Democrats is forcing the House to vote again on the measure. The vote is tentatively scheduled for this month.

Student aid advocates have a "significant opportunity" to defeat the proposal, says Luke Swarthout, higher education associate for State Public Interest Research Groups. Many House members had little time last month to digest details of the $39 billion in budget reductions before a vote. The 774-page bill was released at 1 a.m. on one of the last days of the session, with a final vote scheduled just five hours later, at 6 a.m., Swarthout says.

"That was done to hide this vote from the public," he says.

The bill ultimately passed the House by a 212-to-206 margin, but barely cleared the Senate, as Vice President Dick Cheney returned from a Middle East trip to break a 50-50 tie.

More than 10,000 students have called or e-mailed Congress with their concerns about the plan since last fall, Swarthout says, and a diverse coalition of groups continued the effort into January.

If enacted, the bill will raise rates on most student loans to 6.8 percent, and rates on parent loans to 8.5 percent. However, the federal government will still pay lenders at lower market rates, with the federal government pocketing the difference. …

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