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Senate robs billions from college student aid

WASHINGTON—National Education Association (NEA) President Reg Weaver issued the following statement, denouncing the Senate adoption of its Fiscal Year 2006 budget reconciliation package:

"On behalf of the Bush Administration, Vice President Dick Cheney led the Senate to squander a chance to help countless college students work their way out of poverty and into America's workforce today.  With the adoption of a flawed budget reconciliation package, Cheney and 50 Senators approved cuts in college student aid, totaling $12.7 billion over the next five years. And if this isn't bad enough, within the next few days, the Senate may vote to freeze the maximum amount of Pell Grants to low income students for the fourth consecutive year and may approve a first-ever taxpayer-funded national voucher plan.

"This potentially devastating vote comes at a time when average tuition and fees at four-year public colleges and universities have increased by almost $2,000 or 57 percent over the past five years. The message that the Bush Administration is sending to college students in America who need tuition assistance is loud and clear.  'Get an education, but do it yourself.'

"The cuts to student aid are unconscionable not only because they are the biggest in 12 years, but also because they take excessive fees from low-income students and give these proceeds, in the form of tax cuts, to the wealthiest Americans. It is shameful to finance tax cuts for millionaires with the hard earned dollars of students. The cost of college is increasingly out of the reach of many Americans, federal policy should help students get an education. Instead, this misguided federal policy robs the poor to pay the rich.

"Previously, Congress has  worked hard  to make it easier for students to borrow money to obtain a  higher education, while the 109th Congress appears to be doing all it can to make it difficult for poor students to attend  college. When the lawmakers who voted in favor of this bill meet students who are eager to enter college and realize the American dream, but can't shoulder the costs to do so, those lawmakers should remember that it was their vote that robbed them of the promise of a college education—and perhaps the American dream.

"This Senate vote, just mere hours before adjournment for the holiday season, steals the promise of education from America's students."