State PIRGs' Higher Education Project
218 D Street SE
Washington, DC 20003
(202) 546-9707

Director:
Ivan Frishberg

Advocate:
Ellynne Bannon

 

July 15, 2002

The Honorable Robert C. Byrd, Chairman
Senate Appropriations Committee
311 Senate Hart Office Building
United States Senate
Washington, D.C. 20510
The Honorable Ted Stevens, Ranking Member
Senate Appropriations Committee
522 Senate Hart Office Building
United States Senate
Washington, D.C. 20510

Dear Mr. Chairman and Senator Stevens,

The United States Student Association and the State PIRGs' Higher Education Project are writing to thank you for your continued support of student aid. Your support of recent student aid increases and funding to cover the Pell Grant shortfall is key to ensuring that students from across the country have access to a college education.

Due to state budget cuts, rising costs, and the failure of federal grant aid to keep pace with these costs, many students and families struggle to pay for college. In 1999-2000, 64% of students graduated with federal education loan debt, and the average student loan debt has nearly doubled over the past eight years to $16,928. In addition, nearly half of all full-time students who work are working 25 or more hours per week to help cover college costs. Students from low-income families struggle even more-the typical Pell Grant recipient who borrows now graduates with almost $19,000 in federal education loan debt.

We urge you to increase funding for the maximum Pell Grant to $4,500 in FY03 and to support increases in other key student aid programs such as LEAP, SEOG, campus-based aid, TRIO and teacher loan forgiveness.

As you meet to write the appropriations bill, please remember the millions of students who are able to realize their dream of a college education because of federal student aid programs. Thank you for your continued leadership and support on student aid issues.

Sincerely,

Mary Cunningham
U.S. Student Association Legislative Director
Ellynne Bannon
State PIRGs' Higher Education Advocate

cc: Members of the Senate Appropriations Committee