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CUTTING STUDENT COSTS:  SENATOR MARIA CANTWELL VISITS CLARK COLLEGE

Washington Senator Maria Cantwell visited Clark College for a news conference in support of the Senate’s passage of the College Cost Reduction Act. Pictured with her are Clark students Diane Haraldson, Natalie Marquez and Lakia Wilson – all of whom have benefited from Pell grants to further their education – and ASCC President Pat Mehigan.
Washington Senator Maria Cantwell (left) visited Clark College for a news conference in support of the Senate’s passage of the College Cost Reduction Act. Pictured with her are Clark students Diane Haraldson, Natalie Marquez and Lakia Wilson – all of whom have benefited from Pell grants to further their education – and ASCC President Pat Mehigan.

"No one should have to mortgage their future to get an education.” That was the message from Washington Senator Maria Cantwell during a news conference at Clark College on Sept. 13.

Cantwell applauded Senate passage of the College Cost Reduction Act, which provides, in her words, “the most significant increase in student financial aid since the G.I. bill.” The bill raises the maximum Pell Grant, cuts interest rates, places a cap on monthly loan payments, and offers loan forgiveness to those in public service careers, such as nursing, teaching, and law enforcement who incur debt from higher education.

Clark College President Bob Knight and ASCC President Patrick Mehigan each welcomed Cantwell to the college. Assistant Financial Aid Director Janet Turner spoke about the importance of Pell grants in providing access to education. She also introduced three students – Diane Haraldson, Natalie Marquez, and Lakia Wilson – who described how Pell grants have helped them achieve their educational goals. Cantwell noted that all three students are pursuing careers in health care education, which she described as vitally important to the region and state.

Senator Maria Cantwell was welcomed by Clark College President Bob Knight.

The College Cost Reduction Act, which would raise the maximum Pell Grant from $4,310 to $5,400 by 2012, increases access for students and simplifies the financial aid process. The bill also cuts the subsidized student loan interests rates in half, from 6.8 percent to 3.4 percent, making student loan repayment more manageable.

With a $20 billion increase nationwide, Washington state receives $33 million more in the first year and a total of $334 million over the next five years. This would increase the average grant in the state by $360 in 2008 to $2,870 and increase the eligibility for students to receive a maximum grant reward.

During the 2006-2007 academic year, 2,690 Clark College students received $5,541,391 in Pell grants.  The average award was $2,060. 

Under the new bill, borrowers who continue in public service careers can get significant help with their loan payments. For example, a starting teacher earning $30,974 with the Washington state average loan debt of $19,565 could have loan payments capped at 15 percent—reducing monthly payments by $65. After 10 years, all remaining debt would be forgiven, a benefit worth $11,162.

Executive Dean of Planning and Advancement Candy Bennett said, “Access to education is one of our mission imperatives and making college affordable is critically important in that effort. We’re very proud that Senator Cantwell came to Clark College to underscore her support for this legislation."

With the help of federal Pell Grants, Cantwell was the first member of her family to graduate from college. Since taking office, she has worked to make college affordable. After the president’s 2008 budget proposal eliminated Perkins Loan funding and cut back funding for Pell Grants, Cantwell wrote letters to Budget Committee leaders asking them to restore the Perkins Loan funding and raise the maximum Pell Grant award from $4,310 to $5,100. The College Cost Reduction Act legislation has been sent to President Bush. Cantwell urged the president to sign it.

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