U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown announced legislation on Wednesday aimed at increasing federal student financial aid and providing loan forgiveness for college graduates who enter public service.
Brown, D-Ohio, said the Higher Education Access Act will be voted on by both houses in July. If passed, the measure would raise federal Pell Grants from the current $4,500 yearly maximum to $5,100 by 2008 and $5,400 by 2011.
“Much of this legislation is aimed toward the middle class and poor families,” Brown said. “Government programs have grown slowly, but tuition has continued to rise way above the rate of inflation. Ohio has some of the highest in-state tuitions in the country.”
The bill includes an amendment that would cap student loan payments at 15 percent of the borrower’s income.
Brown also is going after private lending companies, drafting legislation that would create a new federal student loan program to compete with private lenders by providing loans with a lower interest rate.
Under the Federal Supplemental Loan Program, the Secretary of Education would set the interest rates of federal student loans. Unlike the Direct Loans currently provided by the government, the new loan program will not be funded by taxpayers.
“I’ve seen interest rates as high as 18 or 20 percent,” Brown said. “It’s counter to public interest. We are going to see a day when we have stripped out private profit from student loans.”
According to a study released by the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, college tuition in Lorain County has risen 12.2 percent since 2001 — low compared with the 47 percent increase in Cuyahoga County and 58 percent in Geauga County.
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