Congressional Bill to Increase Financial Aid


Published: September 27, 2007

FORDHAM—Have an extra $160,000 or so just lying around? Then the information in this article may not significantly affect your life. On the other hand, if you are one of the many Fordham students who struggle to finance the cost of a four-year education, a bill recently passed by Congress may take some of the weight of your impending student-loan debt off your shoulders.

According to the Chronicle of Higher Education, the bill, entitled The College Cost Reduction and Access Act, will decrease grants awarded to student loan companies and use those funds to increase the maximum amount of federal funding awarded to college students in the form of the Pell Grant.

Supporters of the bill, according to the Boston Globe, claim that it is the “single largest increase in federal tuition funding since World War II.”

The Office of Financial Aid at Fordham declined to comment on the bill. Bob Howe, director of communications at Fordham, claimed that it is “too early to speculate on the legislation’s possible impact on students.”

The U.S. Department of Education Web site describes the Pell Grant as a “need-based grant.” The monetary amount awarded, the Web site states, varies from student to student based on factors including family income and cost of tuition at the student’s chosen university. The current maximum Pell Grant awarded to students is $4,300. The bill will increase the maximum grant to $5,400 by 2012, states an Associated Press article.

Additionally, interest rates on federal student loans will be cut in half, from 6.8 percent to 3.4 percent. The bill will also establish a “loan-forgiveness program” for students who work in a “public-service profession, such as nursing or teaching,” for ten years after graduation. According to, 20 percent of Fordham students major in the social sciences, and may hence receive some form of “loan-forgiveness” as a result of this bill.

Many in the student loan industry call the bill unfair and, according to the Boston Globe, claim it will cause the layoff of employees and ultimately negatively affect students. Student loan companies claim that the industry as a whole is being unjustly punished after it was discovered last year that certain loan companies awarded “kickbacks” to school officials who promoted their loans, the Boston Globe reported.

Increasing the Pell Grant will help the 34 percent of students awarded the grant annually across the country, but the majority of middle-income families are deemed too affluent to qualify for it. According to, in 2003-2004, 97.7 percent of Pell Grant recipients had a family income of less than $50,000.

“I was denied federal aid,” Cassie Foote, FCLC ’10, said “According to them, my family makes too much money. My dad is a police officer and they don’t take into account that my town is smaller than average so he makes less money [than the average police officer].” Foote’s parents are taking care of the financial aspects of her education for her until she can “pay them back,” she said.

“If I didn’t get a scholarship or aid from Fordham, there is no way in hell I would be here right now,” she continued. “I know a decrease in the interest rate on my loans would be a huge help for my parents.”

Christina Halligan, FCLC ’10, a theater directing major, said if her parents weren’t paying her tuition, it would have affected her choice of major. “Because I don’t know where I’ll be after college and what kind of job stability I’ll have,” she said. “I wouldn’t be able to pay off loans for a long time if I had to.”

Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings said she would recommend that the president sign the bill, according to the New York Times. Despite such support, however, The Chronicle of Higher Education reported that Bush will most likely veto the bill.