Lending a hand


Friends, students, wildcats, lend me your ears; if you do, the government might lend you some money.

On Friday, Congress approved an overhaul of the federal student loan program. This overhaul will increase funding for Pell grants, increase the maximum a student can request and offer loan forgiveness to students of certain professions.

According to the New York Times, after an initial veto threat from President Bush, Democrats in Congress made some minor changes to the legislation, which passed 79-12 in Senate.

The bill had widespread bipartisan support and an encouraging nod from Education Secretary Margaret Spellings.

Overhauling the federal grant system was a top campaign tool for Democrats leading up to the 2006 elections. But their efforts were slowed when Republicans in Congress ­- and Bush – made a fuss.

This victory is a gasp for air for the Democratic majority, given the increase of the minimum wage was the only campaign promise Democrats have fulfilled since taking office in January.

According to the New York Times, the previous maximum grant amount of $4,310 will increase to $5,400 over the next four years. One of the reasons for the increase was the fact that the Republican majority of years past cut the Pell budget.

“We took $11.39 billion and put it back into Pell grants,” said George Miller (D-Calif), head of the House education committee. “That’s the difference that an election makes.”

The increase in loan amounts is a necessary tool to curb the skyrocketing costs of college.

At K-State alone, tuition increased eight percent for a 15 credit hour schedule, according to the Aug. 28 edition of the Collegian.

Recent college lending scandals have caused confidence in private lenders to plummet. The Democrats stepped up to help students pay for an education to which everyone should have the right.

Congressional Republicans and President Bush have tried to stand in the way of the bipartisan overhaul.

House Minority leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) complained the changes “will cripple the private-sector loan program.” But it would appear to the average American the private sector already has done that to itself.

Also, the new changes will allow for certain loans to be forgiven. According to the same article from the Times, if graduates work for 10 or more years as a public servant ­- police officer, fire fighter, teacher – they could ask for their grants to be forgiven.

Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.) likened the new legislation to the GI Bill.

“Today we need a similar bold new commitment to enable the current generation of Americans to rise to the global challenges we face,” he said.

The GI Bill gave more opportunities to citizens who served our country in the armed forces.

Unfortunately, college has gotten so expensive that most Americans need assistance to get the education needed to stay competitive in an unforgiving job market.

Sen. Kennedy was right in saying our generation is faced with great global challenges. The only way the United States can maintain a competitive advantage in a globalized world is to make sure its labor force is trained and educated.

If we fail to make a higher education available to all citizens, we will stand idly by as we are passed by China, India and other nations in the world market. This, my friends, would be a Julius Caesar-type tragedy.

Owen Kennedy is senior in human resource management. Please send comments to opinion@spub.ksu.edu.