Tuesday, September 25, 2007
ORANGEBURG – SC State students, led by the Student Government Association and the campus chapter of the South Carolina Education Association (SCEA), will march and rally in support of a bill that would increase Pell Grant scholarships and halve interest rates on need-based federal student loans.
The Thursday, Sept. 27, march begins at 4:30 p.m. at Smith-Hammond-Middleton Memorial Center and will lead to the Kirkland W. Green Student Center Plaza. The campus rally, in support of the College Cost Reduction Act, will begin at 5 p.m.
The keynote address will be given by Anthony Daniels Jr., National Education Association (NEA) Student Program chairman. He represents 60,000 members from 900 colleges and universities nationwide. Other slated speakers include SC State President Andrew Hugine Jr., S.C. Representative Bakari T. Sellers (D-District 90) and SCEA Student President Kareem Benson.
“Last February (2006), Congress passed a measure that removed almost $12 billion from federal student aid programs and in his fiscal year 2007 budget the president proposed $1.2 billion in additional cuts to higher education programs,” said NEA Student Program Chairman Anthony Daniels Jr. “The latest cuts have further exacerbated the affordability of a college education, leaving many lower-income students unable to complete their education.”
On Sept. 18, HR 2669, the College Cost Reduction Act, was sent to President George W. Bush to be signed into law. The bill increases the maximum Pell Grant scholarship by at least $1,090 over the next five years, so that the maximum value of the grant will reach $5,400 by 2012. In addition, the bill cuts in half interest rates on need-based federal student loans from 6.8 percent to 3.4 percent over four years.
“America’s role as a world-power and leader in social, cultural and technological advances can only be maintained by investing in the future of our nation’s youth,” said U.S. House Majority Whip James E. Clyburn (D-SC), a SC State alumnus.
“A college education means a chance to achieve the American dream of a good paying job and home ownership for millions of young people. It should lead to personal success, not financial distress,” said U.S. Rep. Kendrick Meek (D-FL). “This legislation lowers the cost of getting a college education and means that graduates can pay off their loans sooner, at less cost and get on with their lives sooner.”
If the College Cost Reduction Act is signed into law, 6.8 million students who take out need-based federal student loans each year will see the interest rates on their loans halved over the next four years, saving the typical borrower $4,400. About 5.5 million students who receive Pell Grant scholarships each year will see an immediate increase of $490 in their maximum Pell scholarship in the next year alone, and an increase of $1090 over the next five years. Public servants will receive complete loan forgiveness after 10 years of service – assisting those in the military, first responders, law enforcement, firefighters, nurses, public defenders, prosecutors and early childhood educators.
The bill also provides $170 million in grants for Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) over the next five years. HR 2669 also creates a new designation of Predominantly Black Institutions – defined as schools that enroll students in financial need and have at least 40 percent African American student enrollment. These schools, including SC State, will be eligible to receive $30 million in grant aid over five years for programs in the fields of science, technology, engineering, health education, teacher education, and programs geared towards improving the educational outcomes of African American males.
In South Carolina, students and families would see an estimated $395,164,000 in loan and Pell aid over five years. In addition, S.C. students will see the interest rates on their loans halved over the next year, saving the typical borrower $4,580. Currently, 77,145 S.C. students receive the Pell Grant.