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05/08/2014

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Association.

USSA is the nation’s oldest and largest

national student organization, and we are the

officially recognized voice of students in the

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Department of Education, on Capitol Hill, and in

the White House.

Today, I urge the Department of Education

to prioritize higher education access and

affordability as it begins its negotiated

rulemaking process. The Spellings Commission

reported that net college costs at four-year

public universities were 73 percent of a low-

income family’s income in 2005, as compared to 57

percent in 1992.

Access to higher education is a right, not

a privilege, and should be accessible to all

students, regardless of their income. Also, the

increase in the price of college has exceeded

price increases in all other sectors of the

economy.

In addition to being the legislative

director for USSA, I am also a recent college

graduate, with almost $35,000 in student loans.

Like many of the students who have spoken today, I

am also struggling with unmanageable debt. Better

yet, I am drowning in debt.

While more can be done on both the campus

and the state levels to reduce the cost of

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skyrocketing tuition, we urge the Department to

revise its regulations to benefit millions of

students who are struggling just like me. As the

Department begins to implement the Spellings

Commission recommendations, I ask you to increase

grant aid and make student loans more manageable.

USSA strongly supports the Commission’s

recommendation to increase the Pell Grant to cover

70 percent of in-state tuition cost. Doing so

will allow countless more low- to middle-income

students an opportunity to take advantage of an

opportunity that has been traditionally available

to the wealthy, as 90 percent of the fastest

growing jobs in the new information and service

economy will require some post-secondary

education.

Today, more than ever, it is important for

the U.S. to have an educated workforce who can

truly compete in the global economy. When

negotiating its current student loan regulations,

there are a variety of ways in which the

Department of Education can make loans more

manageable.

The first is by limiting loan repayments

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to a percentage of a student’s income. With more

and more students taking on the burden of

unmanageable debt, having a college degree will

essentially be worthless if students are spending

the majority of their earnings on loan repayments.

Next, take into consideration that

students’ parents have significantly less income

to contribute to loan repayments. Students should

not be penalized for attempting to provide a

better life for their families, and should not

have to choose between food and outrageous loan

payments.

Lastly, I urge the Department to lower the

interest rate cap. By lowering this cap, students

could potentially save thousands of dollars each

year.

In conclusion, on behalf of millions of

students across the country, I ask the Department

of Education to prioritize higher education, and

ask that you help open the doors of higher

education to all students.

Thank you.

DAN MADZELAN: Thank you.

[insert Grace Serino testimony]

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