Crowley Applauds Passage of Student Aid and Education Reform Bill

September 17, 2009
Press Release

Washington, D.C. —Congressman Joseph Crowley (D- the Bronx, Queens) applauded today’s passage of The Student Aid and Fiscal Responsibility Act (SAFRA, H.R. 3221), a comprehensive education reform bill that will expand access to an affordable college education to millions of American students, transform early education opportunities, and build a world-class community college system across the nation.  SAFRA is the single largest investment in aid to help students and families pay for college in history – at no cost to taxpayers – and is critical to building a stronger, more competitive American economy for the future.  Additionally, this legislation includes key provisions for modernizing, renovating and repairing schools so children everywhere can learn in safe, clean schools without damaging chemicals like polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs).  The bill passed by a bipartisan vote of 253-171.

“Helping hard-working students achieve their dreams of getting a college degree is one of the most important responsibilities I have has a public servant,” said Congressman Crowley.  “At no cost to taxpayers, the Student Aid and Fiscal Responsibility Act will help thousands of college students in the Bronx and Queens afford quality educational opportunities, expand early education for all children, and strengthen our economy long-term by ensuring our global competitiveness through expanded education for all.  Also included is a provision championed by Congressman José Serrano and me to help schools, like many in the New York City area, that are struggling to clean up dangerous contaminants like PCBs.  I am proud to support the Student Aid and Fiscal Responsibility Act and look forward to seeing it signed into law by President Obama.” 
The Student Aid and Fiscal Responsibility Act (H.R. 3221) reforms the system of federal student loans to save taxpayers $87 billion – and then invests $77 billion of those savings back into education, particularly by making college more affordable, and directs $10 billion back to the Treasury to reduce entitlement spending.  Among its many provisions, it increases the maximum Pell Grant from $5,350 in 2009 to $5,550 in 2010 and $6,900 in 2019 and keeps interest rates low on subsidized federal student loans.
SAFRA will help reach President Obama’s goal of producing the most college graduates by 2020 by making college accessible and transforming the way our student loan programs operate. It will expand quality early education opportunities that will put more children on the path to success. It will strengthen community colleges and training programs to help build a highly-skilled, innovative, 21st century workforce ready for the rigors of a global economy. And it will boost the fiscal health of the country our children will inherit by paying down the deficit.
This legislation also ensures every child has access to a world-class learning environment by providing school districts with funds for school modernization, renovation, and repair projects that will create healthier, safer, and more energy-efficient teaching and learning climates. Schools will be able to use these renovation funds to clean up damaging chemicals that can impact learning, such as polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs). The bill also spurs renovations for community college campuses in need of repair, ensuring that community college students will also be able to learn in modern, updated, state-of-the-art facilities.
Specific elements of The Student Aid and Fiscal Responsibility Act include:

  • Larger Pell Grants: President Obama and Congress increased Pell Grant scholarships by $500 in the Recovery Act. But Pell grants are worth less than half as much as they were 30 years ago, measured against the rising cost of a four-year public university. The House legislation will build on the largest Pell grant ever and provide funds to help Pell grow faster than inflation every year. 
  • Unprecedented investments in Community Colleges: Community colleges are the largest part of our higher education system. They excel at meeting the needs of students from all backgrounds and working with businesses to meet their demands for a skilled workforce. Through competitive grants, the American Graduation Initiative will increase the effectiveness and impact of community colleges, raise graduation rates, modernize facilities, and create new online learning opportunities.
  • Early Learning Reform: The House legislation establishes the President’s Early Learning Challenge Fund, challenging states to develop model systems of early learning that raise the bar for standards and outcomes in early childhood education. States would compete for awards to implement high standards, quality improvements, and systems that will ensure that children arrive at school ready for success. 
  • A Simplified Application Process: The application for student aid – known as the FAFSA – is far longer and more complicated than it needs to be. To streamline the application, President Obama and Congress are removing dozens of financial questions that have little or no impact on aid eligibility.
  • A College Access and Completion Fund:  The new five-year initiative will improve college access and completion, particularly for students from disadvantaged backgrounds. It will evaluate efforts to reach these goals and expand programs proven to be successful.
  • Expanding Low-Cost Perkins Loans: President Obama will dramatically increase the availability of low-cost Perkins loans. The interest rate on Perkins loans is only 5 percent, while private student loans often have rates of 12 to 14 percent.  Perkins loans help fill the gap for students with unmet financial need.
  • Student Loans that Put Students First: Banks and other financial institutions are currently guaranteed large profits on student loans determined by entitlements earned in the political process, rather than in the marketplace. President Obama’s reforms will use market forces to reduce costs and benefit students by expanding Direct Student Loans. The Department of Education will choose private-sector companies to service loans in a competitive process and reward them for better performance with additional work. The resulting savings will be used to aid students, not banks.

For more information about The Student Aid and Fiscal Responsibility Act visit: