A8 • NEWS • APRIL 1, 2010 • THE METROPOLITAN
A look at federal legislation
On March 14, Congress passed one of the most influential pieces of legislation in decades in a sweeping overhaul of the health care system. In addition, under the radar of media coverage from Tea Party protests to public inflammatory arguments against the new health care bill, Congress passed the Student Aid and Fiscal Responsibility Act – practically unnoticed. The bill makes significant increases to federal student loans, promises to give money back to higher ed. institutions and projects to save taxpayers over $60 billion, all while cutting the banks out of the entire process. So, what is actually in the bill and why does it matter to students? And why did protests erupt in Washington D.C. surrounding the health care bill and who are the voices against it?
The Metropolitan takes a look at the weekend that made history in legislative reform.
BIGdeal? Stories and photos by Julie Vitkovskaya firstname.lastname@example.org
Changes to the Auraria community On March 30, President Barack Obama solidified sweeping legislation eliminating banks from federal student loan programs, giving a substantial boost for grants and promises to invest in minority-serving institutions. The Student Aid and Fiscal Responsibility Act overrides the last college aid reform enacted four decades ago – and has far more impact for individuals hoping to re-enter college. “This legislation is a win for students and parents struggling to make ends meet to fulfill the dream of a college education,” Education Secretary Arne Duncan said. “By ending subsidies to banks, we can make important investments that increase affordability and access to our nation’s universities and community colleges.” The legislation was passed under the umbrella of the health care reform as reconciliation between Republicans and Democrats. The bill allows students to consolidate their loans, shortens the form to apply for FAFSA and increases their chances of receiving a federal grant. Under the new student aid reform, the maximum federal Pell Grant award will be increased from $5,550 this year to $5,975 by 2017. So far, in the 2009-2010 school year, Metro has disbursed more than $26.5 million of the federal Pell Grant to more than 8,000 students. And that number is expected to rise, according to Metro’s Director of Financial Aid Cindy Hejl. “The most interesting thing is that the federal government is opening up the possibility of students to be awarded a Pell Grant in the summer semester, even though they may have used up their eligibility for the year,” Hejl said in an e-mail. Hejl encourages students who may have not considered applying for the summer semester to contact the Financial Aid Office now that those funds are available. “Overall, our office feels that it is a good bill for Metro students,” Hejl said. “By switching over to the Direct Loan process, we have actually seen a faster loan delivery to our students.” In addition to Metro, UCD and CCD have already switched to direct lending to expedite the process, but other state schools in Colorado who have not include Western State University, Adams State University and University of Northern Colorado. All of them expect to have changed by
the beginning of the fall semester. Also included in the measure is $2.55 billion for job training to be given to historically black and minority-serving institutions, such as CCD; Metro is currently seeking accreditation in that arena. CCD Director of Financial Aid Services Karla Nash said although she is disappointed with the final switch in legislation from the originally promised $10 million, she is excited for the increase to the Pell Grant program. “This is community colleges’ day in the sun,” Duncan said. CCD has almost doubled their recipients from the 2008 – 2009 to the 2009 – 2010 school year, and Nash also expects those numbers to rise as well. “We’re hopeful [federal funds] will limit the debt some of the students are taking on as student loans,” Nash said. “These colleges and universities have continued to do a lot more with a lot less,” said Director of Domestic Policy Melody Barnes. “These dollars will go out to ensure programs and address issues around class size, the substance of these programs that they are aligning and better alignment with the private sector.” However satisfied most students and administrators feel about the legislation, some are not on board. As someone who has read the entire bill, UCD Chair of Finance Board Josh Diller said he is suspicious of the interest increasing from 3.4 to 6.8 percent. “They’re balancing the health care bill on the backs of students,” Diller said. Metro Student Trustee Kailei Higginson also dislikes the general nature of the bill because it doesn’t account for those middle class students who may not be eligible for Pell Grants. “It doesn’t target … why the cost of higher education is so high,” Higginson said. “It simply says that business is bad and a college student isn’t smart enough to figure out [which] loan program gives them the lowest interest rate.” The bill projects to save taxpayers over $60 billion over the next decade and some of the savings will go toward reducing the nation’s deficit and helping to pay for expanded health care, according to both Duncan and Barnes. The legislation is part of President Obama’s domestic goals to have the highest amount of college graduates in the world by 2020.
essential facts you need to know about...
STUDENT AID REFORM All of these provisions hope to reduce the federal deficit at least $10 billion over 10 years.
Commits $68 billion toward college affordability and deficit reduction over the next 11 years.
Students who responsibly make monthly payments for 20 years will be forgiven of their debt – as opposed to 25. Starting July 1, all new federal loans will be direct loans.
Allows for more than $40 billion in federal Pell Grants .
Puts away $750 million to increase college access and completion, specifically increased funding for the College Access Challenge Grant.
New borrowers after 2014 can cap their loan repayment at 10 percent.
All direct loans will be collected by private companies under contract with Department of Education.
Increases the max Pell Grant scholarship from $5,550 in 2010 to $5,975 by 2017 and allows more students access to them.
Gives $2.55 billion for historically black and minorityserving institutions.
THE METROPOLITAN • APRIL 1, 2010 • NEWS • A9
Washington D.C. March 13 –15
Protesters mix with proponents for the bill March 12 on the lawn of the U.S. Capitol Building. Mild confrontations between each group occurred. Members of the Congressional Black Caucus pass angry protesters March 13 on their way into the Cannon Building. Andre Carson (D-Ind.), far right, is one of the members who has criticized Tea Party protesters for yelling racial slurs at the group.
A historic weekend with bitter beginnings
TOP: As Democrat and Republican representative emerged from the U.S. Capitol Building to watch the rally, protesters took the opportunity to snap photos and shout, “Kill the bill!” ABOVE: Andrew Howell, a student from North Carolina, rallies in opposition to the health care bill March 14 at the U.S. Capitol Building.
Before “hell no you can’t!” ricocheted in the room full of representatives, similar rally cries were heard days before the passage of the health care bill. Voices in opposition erupted on the steps and lawns in the U.S. Capitol March 20 and 21 as the crowd waved flags and held up signs with one reoccurring theme: “Kill the bill!” Made up of mostly Republicans, conservatives and members of the Tea Party, protesters came from as far as Florida just a day after they heard about the rallies. Nicole Zimmerman found information on Facebook, and traveled from Philadelphia to protest against irresponsible government spending. “For me, it’s a spiritual war,” Zimmerman said. Kathleen Waligore, a member of the Tea Party, called the bill a “power grab” for Democrats. “We got to get real here. Yes, we want health care, but this isn’t the way to do it,” Waligore said. “It’s not going to work and it’s going to bankrupt the country,” said Nancy Woodrow, who also came from Philadelphia to gather among hundreds. Woodrow and others stood in line on the steps of the Cannon Building to tell their elected representatives the bill was unconstitutional and to vote nay, which as promised, every Republican did. Each representative had two choices — walk across the street from the U.S. Capitol and into the Canon or use one of the passages underground. As they passed, Republican representatives shook
hands and shared laments. However, Democrats received more than just a cold shoulder. It would start as a small “boo” from one corner and the low baritone would travel in a wave across the crowd. Parents and their children joined together to chant “Nancy, Nancy,” to coax Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi outside. On occasion, a person would step up a bit out of line and shout: “You’re going to lose your jobs!” to one of the passing Democrats. In one of the ugliest and widely-reported confrontations, members of the Congressional Black Caucus criticized protesters for yelling racial epithets against them; Rep. Emmaunel Clever (D-Mo.) was spat on and House Majority Whip James Clyburn (D-S.C.) told the Washington Post: “ I have heard things today that I have not heard since March 15, 1960, when I was marching to get off the back of the bus.” Still, rallies across the country continue. On March 31 the Tea Party Express will stop by Grand Junction and Denver to gather state support against the new health care reform.
HEALTH CARE REFORM Donut hole: government picks up The bill provides more incentives for the tab for elderly’s prescription offices to consolidate their space and use an electronic medical record premiums. system. The Congressional Budget Office estimates the bill lowers the national deficit by $138 billion over 10 years.
There is no public option.
Employers with more than 50 workers must provide insurance.
Insurers set up plans you can choose from, rather than filtering through them.
Insurance companies will no longer be allowed to deny coverage based on an individual’s preexisting condition.
Teens can stay on their parent’s plan until they are 26 years old. Health care reform costs $943 billion over 10 years – as opposed to the $2.5 trillion we spend today.
Many Republican provisions went into the bill, but no Republican voted for it.