Federal News

House passes sweeping changes to student loan program

The Unites States House of Representatives passed a comprehensive bill to overhaul the federal student loan program, which aims to end bank-based lending to students.

The bill, HR 3221, would shift all student lending to the government's direct-loan program, would provide $10 billion in grants to community colleges, $8 billion for early-learning programs, and $3-billion for grants aimed at improving college access and completion rates. The bill would also increase the maximum Pell Grant by a set amount each year, while expanding the Perkins Loan program from the current $1 billion to $6 billion a year and overhauling its structure.

"No student in America should have to mortgage (his or her) future to get a good education," said U.S. Rep. George Miller, D-Martinez, chairman of the House Education and Labor Committee and the author of the bill. "This legislation provides students and families with the single largest investment in federal student aid ever and makes landmark investments to improve education for students of all ages "and all without costing taxpayers a dime."

The bill calls for:

Investing $40 billion to increase the maximum annual Pell Grant scholarship to $5,550 in 2010 and to $6,900 by 2019. Starting in 2010, the scholarship will match increases in the cost of living by indexing it to the Consumer Price Index plus 1 percentage point;

Investing $3 billion to bolster college access and completion support programs for students;

Strengthening the Perkins Loan program, a campus-based program that provides low-cost federal loans to students;

Keeping interest rates low on need-based – or subsidized – federal student loans by making the interest rates on these loans variable beginning in 2012. These interest rates are currently set to jump from 3.4 percent to 6.8 percent in 2012;

Making it easier for families to apply for financial aid by simplifying the FAFSA form;

Providing loan forgiveness for members of the military who are called up to duty in the middle of the academic year.

Investing $2.55 billion in historically black colleges and universities and minority-serving institutions to provide students with the support they need to stay in school and graduate; and

Investing $10 billion to build a world-class community college system that prepares students and workers for the jobs of the future “and jobs in high demand by local employers “by incentivizing community colleges to partner with businesses, job training and adult education programs.

This bill is now in the Senate.

10th Congressional District candidates forum

It has been said that special elections are the "canary in the coal mine" of political trends, which means that if the majority party is in trouble, the first signs of distress show up in a special election. While most observers believe Democrat John Garamendi holds the edge in the upcoming special election for the 10th Congressional District representative on Nov. 3, national observers from both major parties will closely watch this race to see if any new electoral trend is developing.

In an effort to give the Saint Mary's community front-row seats for the special election, the College, the League of Woman Voters of Diablo Valley and the Contra Costa Times will hold a candidates forum on Monday, Oct. 26 at 7 p.m. in the Soda Center with all five party nominees. To encourage student participation, the League will allow the students to ask the first questions at the forum.

To vote, you must be registered in the 10th Congressional District by Monday, Oct. 19. If you are not yet registered, the College Democratic and Republican clubs will hold a voter registration drive every Wednesday until registration closes. Look for their tables in the Quad and in front of Oliver Hall. I will also have voter registration forms in my office, 121 Brother Jerome West Hall.

State News

Assemblywoman visits campus

State Assemblymember Nancy Skinner, D-Berkeley, spent much of Thursday evening, Oct. 1, on campus. She held a forum on "The Cost of Corrections: Impact on Our Communities, State Budget, and Public Safety," which included SMC professor Ron Ahnen as a panelist. Before the forum, Skinner met with several students and discussed a wide range of topics, including financial aid and Cal Grants.

Local News

Moraga considers new revenue possibilities

In an effort to beef up its municipal coffer, Moraga has formed a Revenue Enhancement Committee. The committee has met for several months and raised a number of ideas, including the possibility of re-branding the Town of Moraga as "The Home of Saint Mary's College." Other issues are the need for local lodging, such as a hotel or an inn.

The committee is scheduled to make recommendations to the Town Council in December. This office is monitoring the committee and will keep you posted on the recommendations that go to the council.

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