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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Pelosi touts college costs

    Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi speaks to a crowd gathered in the Memorial Union Monday.  She was joined by other democrat representatives from around Arizona.
    Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi speaks to a crowd gathered in the Memorial Union Monday. She was joined by other democrat representatives from around Arizona.

    TEMPE – Over storms of applause and standing ovations, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and three other U.S. representatives from Arizona laid out plans to improve college affordability yesterday.

    Measures to lower student loan interest rates and raising funds for Pell Grants were the main issues, and the politicians, who came together on the ASU campus, said they are inching forward in Congress with bipartisan support.

    Reps. Raul Grijalva from Tucson, Ed Pastor from Phoenix and Barbara Lee from California also joined the discussion.

    “”The urgent task has begun: to put on the brakes and stop the raid on higher education,”” Grijalva said. “”I look forward to that challenge.””

    The presentation was a success because it clearly defined the Democrats’ plans to support higher education over the next years, said Devin Mauney, chairman of the Arizona Students’ Association.

    While he hopes other issues such as subsidized loans for parents and other support measures will also be tackled, Mauney said the plans to work on interest rates and Pell Grants are “”great news for all of us.””

    “”I hope they continue to act with vision in the future,”” he said.

    The representatives signed onto a bill that would cut interest rates in half on undergraduate subsidized Stafford loans during the course of five years.

    The change from 6.8 percent to 3.4 percent would save the average student starting in 2007 more than $2,000 over the life of the loan, according to the Arizona Public Interest Research group, which worked with the ASU student government to put on the event.

    The average student loan debt for graduating seniors across the country is more than $19,000, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.

    The legislators also said they want to boost the maximum amount that is available for Pell Grant scholarships, which are given to low-income students.

    A Congress budget proposal included a $260 increase, raising the highest amount available to $4,310.

    But Grijalva said he wants to raise the amount even further to make sure everyone can afford to go to college, regardless of income.

    “”We closed the door to the American dream for too many people,”” he said.

    Pelosi encouraged students to stand up for their interests and put pressure on politicians to act on their behalf.

    “”The leverage has changed in Washington, D.C.,”” she said. “”The power is with you. No more will you see legislation coming to the floor that will cut student assistance.””

    A UA student leader hailed the speeches, saying she felt empowered and understood by the representatives.

    “”She showed the difference that we made,”” said Deema Tabbara, ASA director and political science senior. “”It was motivating. I was blown away and really impressed.””

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