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FROM THE PRESIDENT
September 20, 2007--Senator Jay Rockefeller delivered some good news on Sunday, September 16 when he came to campus to talk with Shepherd University student leaders about the College Cost Reduction and Access Act of 2007, which had passed in Congress only a few days prior to his visit. The Act is now awaiting President Bush's signature.
Senator Rockefeller compared the Act to the G.I. Bill, a dramatic increase in aid to education for American military attending college after World War II. The College Cost Reduction and Access Act will increase the amount of money available for Pell grants, cut excessive subsidies paid to student loan lenders, and cut subsidized student loan rates in half, to 3.4 percent over the next five years. Shepherd students were unanimously enthusiastic about the lower student loan rates and relieved to hear that the dreaded FAFSA form, a multi-page financial document required before aid is decided, is proposed to be cut to only two pages. But, in Senator Rockefeller's opinion, the most significant change would be a loan forgiveness policy for graduates who work for 10 years in public service. This could include teachers, social service workers, and many other forms of service professions. With the high level of volunteer service on the Shepherd campus, this public service aspect may prove to be very attractive to Shepherd graduates.
Approximately 70 percent of Shepherd students receive some form of financial aid. This College Cost Reduction and Access Act indicates positive progress toward lowering the debt burden they and their families bear for the opportunity of higher education. In real dollars, if approved as written, the Act will provide an additional $14.9 million in Pell grants for college students in West Virginia and increase student aid and loans by $20 billion over five years. Much of the funding for this increase came from a reduction in excessive subsidies to commercial lenders, redirecting federal monies to direct aid for students. The Act also encourages colleges and universities to continue to do their part in keeping higher education affordable; the averages cited in this study include West Virginia's tuition and fee amount for 2005-2006 as just under $10,000, placing this state in the most affordable quartile nationwide.
All of this is indeed ground-breaking legislation, a significant step toward making a college education affordable for students from all walks of life. This act offers important changes that heighten access to a Shepherd University degree. The students attending the meeting were not only excited by the announcement, but honored to spend a Sunday afternoon sharing pizza and conversation with the Senator. As he left, the students promised to return his visit with one of their own to Capital Hill--Senator Rockefeller only asked that we be sure to bring along some pizza.
Thank you, Senator Rockefeller for your work on behalf of affordability and access to higher education. Your personal interest in our students is greatly appreciated.
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