Madam Speaker, I rise today in support of H.R. 5, the College Student Relief Act. The rising cost of education is a concern for students and parents across the country. Occasionally, I hold office hours at grocery stores in my district back in Chicago. Every time people atend tos hare their concerns my constituents let me know that they are worried about the cost of higher education.
They worry about being able to send their children to college without taking out a new mortgage on their homes or working a second job. They worry about dipping into their retirement savings in order to pay the exorbitant cost of tuition. And they are not only worried, but they are also shocked by the tuition increases from year to year for their children who are already in college.
It is our responsibility to make sure that the price of a college education does not close doors for the future leaders of America. Today we will correct a grave mistake of the past and pass the College Student Relief Act--ensuring those doors never close.
This legislation is long overdue. The last Congress neglected to deal with college affordability--allowing the cost to skyrocket and leaving millions behind in their desire for a higher education. Tuition and fees at public universities have increased by 41 percent since 2001, and interest rates on studen loans have risen to record-breaking highs. The maximum Pell grant was frozen in the President's budget for a fouth year in a row. Today, the maximum Pell grant covers only 41 percent of the cost of attending college--about half of what it covered three decades ago.
In my home state of Illinois, the average graduate from a state university leaves with more than $15,000 in debt. This massive debt limits the choices that graduates can make, and discourages many students from seeking a college education at all.
The College Student Relief Act takes the first step toward correcting this great injustice, providing real relief to students and middle class families by making a college education more affordable and accessible.
A college education should be as universal in the 21st century as a high school education was in the 20th century. This legislation is the first step towards accomplishing that goal.
Madam Speaker, I am proud that helping students with their college loans is part of the Democratic 100 hours plan. I thank the gentleman from California for his leadership on this issue, and I urge my colleagues to join me in voting for H.R. 5, the College Student Relief Act.
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