A bill that looked like an Omar Samhan slam dunk only months ago has bounced off the rim. The Federal Family Education Loan Program (FFELP), which is the administration's effort to remove private industry from the student loan program, has encountered resistance from the private lending industry. Over the next decade, the bill would save more than $80 billion, which would be used to expand the Pell Grant and other student financial aid programs.
"The good side of this legislation is that it could free up funding that will increase the amount of Pell Grants," said Pricilla Muha, director of financial aid for Saint Mary's. "But many schools will move over to the Direct Loan Program in the coming months, including Saint Mary's, and it may have an impact on students, since many lenders have pulled out of the FFELP program over the past year and more lenders will continue to do so in anticipation of the legislation. Until we switch everyone over to the Direct Loan Program, students may find that their current lender will no longer provide Stafford loans, and they'll be asked to find a new lender. The Financial Aid Office is working to make this transition as transparent as possible."
The House passed the bill last summer, but the Senate has yet to act. The private lending industry employs approximately 35,000 people, so it is understandable there would be some pushback. Private lenders have mounted a vigorous lobbying effort to modify the bill since last summer. We are monitoring this Legislation and working closely with our financial aid office.
If you have questions about student loans or other federal issues you can ask U.S. Rep. John Garamendi, D-Walnut Creek, directly at the town hall meeting he will hold on the Saint Mary's campus. The meeting, which is free and open to the public, will take place in the Soda Activity Center on Wednesday from 6 to 7:30 p.m. It is Garamendi's first visit to Saint Mary's since his victory in the November special election.
As noted in last month's column, the United States census is looking for 1,500 temporary employees in Contra Costa County to assist with this decade's population count. Thousands more are needed nationwide. The hours are flexible, and pay is $22.50 an hour. They would like you to work in your home neighborhood, as long as it is in the United States. The College has donated classroom space to the Census for test-taking purposes, so the qualifying tests are offered right here on campus. If you know of anyone interested in these temporary positions please have them visit www.2010censusjobs.gov or call toll free 1 (866) 861-2010.
The governor released his budget in January, but there has been no real action since then. History tells us most of the action will occur later in the spring before the "May Revise." We anticipate another fight on Cal Grants. I'll be taking some of our Cal Grant recipients to Sacramento to meet legislators and senior staff and give them first-hand testimonials on the Cal Grant's positive impact on so many California families. There is constant change in the state Legislature due to term limits, and these visits have been very valuable in educating new legislators and their staffs about the program's value and the devastating effect cuts would have. I will be joining several other California colleges on March 2 to lobby for the continued funding of the Cal Grant program.
Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger nominated state Senator Able Maldonado to replace former California Lt. Gov. John Garamendi, who resigned to take his seat in Congress. Most gubernatorial appointments only require confirmation by the state Senate, but the lieutenant governor appointment must be confirmed by both houses, the Senate and the State Assembly. Maldonado is a Republican, and both houses of the Legislature are controlled by Democrats, so his confirmation has been a challenge for the governor. The state Senate confirmed him on February 11, and the Assembly subsequently failed to confirm him with the required 41 aye votes. Looks like this nomination may be settled by the courts.
The filing period for the 2010 election cycle is open. This year's legislative elections appear more routine than in 2008, when every legislative seat in Contra Costa County changed hands due to term limits. Contra Costa County Supervisor Susan Bonilla (4th District) will not seek reelection to a second term, but will instead seek the state Assembly seat in District 11. Supervisor John Gioia (1st District) plans to seek his fourth term on the county board. Assembly members Nancy Skinner, District 14, and Joan Buchanan, District 15, are seeking reelection to their second terms. Assemblyman Tom Torlakson is running for state superintendent of public instruction. If successful, Torlakson would be the first Contra Costa County politician elected to statewide office. Both state Senate seats are in midterm and have no election this cycle.
The annual Moraga Community Fair is taking shape. The College will participate once again, and organizers have contacted us seeking volunteers. The fair will be held on Saturday May 8 from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the Rheem Shopping Center. If you would like to volunteer during this day, please contact Fair organizer Judy Jacobson at 376-3192.