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Murray Helps Move Higher Education Act through Senate Committee

Sep 08 2005

Washington senator increases funding levels for Pell Grants, secures student loan deferments for military in Senate HELP Committee bill

(WASHINGTON, D.C.) – U.S. Senator Patty Murray today helped move the reauthorization of the Higher Education Act (HEA) through the Senate Health Education Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee of which she is a member. Murray, a strong advocate for access to higher education for all American students, worked to increase training for literacy coaches in high schools, funding for Pell Grants, access for homeless and foster children and loan deferment for members of the military.

“The federal government should be helping students to achieve the dream of a college education, not holding them back,” Senator Murray said. “I am pleased to have worked to improve this bill and move it forward so that more students will have access to higher education and the promise of good-paying jobs in the future.”

Senator Murray helped secure the following provisions in the Higher Education Act Reauthorization of 2005:

  • Increased Pell Grant authorizing levels by $300 a year;

  • Secured language in both the TRIO and GEAR UP programs aimed at increasing access to higher education to foster and homeless students;

  • Secured language to increase training for literacy coaches in high schools and create graduation and career plans for high school students to help them graduate and continue on to higher education or the job market

“Today’s legislation is a good step in protecting students and providing them with the skills they need to succeed in college and beyond,” Murray said. “The more difficult it is for students to receive financial aid, the more likely they are to delay graduation, drop-out, or forgo college entirely. I am pleased that by working in a bipartisan manner we were able to increase funding for Pell Grants and help more of our students go on to college.”

Senator Murray also worked to include a provision in the bill that will allow for student loan deferments for members of the U.S. Armed Services

“We are asking so much of our men and women in uniform and their families and we have an obligation to make it easier for them when they return home. I am pleased to have secured this loan deferment to help those who sacrifice so much for all of us,” Murray said.

Murray will also work to finally and fully close a loophole in the federal student loan program that, according to Education Department data, has cost taxpayers billions over the past decade.

This controversial bank subsidy guarantees lenders a government subsidized 9.5% rate of return on a certain class of student loans. Borrowers currently pay only 3.37% interest on these loans, originally financed with tax-exempt securities, but taxpayers provide loan holders like the Sallie Mae and Nelnet corporations with a subsidy for the remaining 6.13% The very lucrative “9.5% loans” were supposed to have ended more than ten years ago, but continue to be newly issued to this day. In the first three months of this fiscal year, the federal government paid $262 million to holders of 9.5% loans.

While the Committee-passed bill does not close this loophole, Senator Murray will work to ensure that it does when the bill comes before the full Senate for a vote.

“I will continue to fight to ensure that all our students have access to quality higher education and the skills necessary to compete in a changing workforce.”