College students, future college students, college graduates and state officials have lobbied for changes in the student loan system and have subsequently been ignored by a Republican Congress. But less than a year after taking control of Congress, the Democrats have already delivered the third of their "Six in '06" promises by passing the College Cost Reduction Act, the largest increase in college aid since the 1944 GI Bill. At no cost to taxpayers, the Act expands eligibility for the Pell Grant, increases the amount of Pell Grants, reduces interest rates on student loans and ensures that student loan payments are manageable. It is estimated to save Kansas college students $282 million over the next five years and save students more than $20 billion nationwide.
Democratic efforts to increase regulation of the student loan industry almost always have been opposed by Republicans and have prompted veto threats from the White House. Despite the industry's scandals, the Republican Party continued supporting companies that spent years and hundreds of thousands of dollars buying that support.
Opponents of the bill claim that it is not extensive enough and does not hit the heart of the problem: rising tuition costs. While I realize that the College Cost Reduction Act is not perfect, I applaud the action taken by our Democratic Congress. One piece of legislation rarely solves an entire issue, and the action taken by Democrats is better than no action at all. Giving all students the opportunity for a college education will not be accomplished by one bill and will require more effort from both sides of the aisle. Rather than criticizing the action taken by the Democrats, Republicans should work toward this clearly nonpartisan goal: making college more affordable and accessible for all Americans.