Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Goodbye Ramen, Hello Steak!

Goodbye Ramen, Hello Steak!
Bill Proposes Halving Student Loan Rates
By Rachel Raskin-Zrihen, Times-Herald staff writerVallejo Times Herald

If Rep. George Miller's latest bill passes a House vote today, going to college will become more affordable for thousands of local students, Miller and local education officials said.

The College Student Relief Act of 2007, H.R. 5, would cut interest rates in half during the next five years - from 6.8 percent to 3.4 percent - for needs-based federal student loans. It would save millions of students nationwide thousands in interest payments, said Miller, chairman of the House Education and Labor Committee, in astatement.

Once entirely phased in, the cuts would save the typical borrower $13,800 in subsidized federal student loans, more than $4,000 in interest during the life of the loan, said Miller, (D-Martinez).
Today's vote is part of the new House of Representatives Democratic majority's "Six of '06" campaign promises for the new Congress' first 100 legislative hours, said Miller, whose district includes Vallejo, Benicia and Contra Costa County.

"This will be a vital first step toward helping lower college costs for millions of low and middle-income students, while keeping our promises to taxpayers to maintain responsible spending," Miller said.
Though making college attendance possible for more students sounds good, Norman Reece, Republican Party of Southern Solano County president, said he wonders who will end up footing the bill for this legislation.

"How will this be paid for?" said Reece of Vallejo. "They have a pay-as-you-go commitment. What will the money be taken from? Sounds like a revenue-losing proposition. I'd like to see who will be penalized for this."

The bill is funded by increasing student loan programs' efficiency and redirecting savings to students, according to a federal fact sheet issued by Miller's committee.

"It's a double-whammy of help for our students," said Solano Community College board member, Tony Ubalde of Vallejo. "Community college fees were already lowered from $26 to $20 (per unit), and this will help even more."

Solano College officials noticed an enrollment drop when the fees rose from $18 to $20 per unit in 2004, Ubalde said.

"This should increase the number of students who will be able to attend college, especially the underprivileged students and families," Ubalde said. "The timing is very pro-public education, and I can't help but support that."

About 400 Solano Community College students apply for the needs-based loans annually, said Sal Alcala, the college's dean of special services and financial aid.

Vallejo City Unified School District officials, too, are hopeful the bill will pass, said district spokeswoman Tish Busselle.

"It's an exciting opportunity for our parents to be able to make college more affordable and not saddle their student with excessive debt after college," Busselle said. "We plan to have our counselors make parents aware of it."

On-again, off-again college student Maria Mitschan of Vallejo, 21, summed it up.
"Paying less is always a good thing," she said.

E-mail Rachel Raskin-Zrihen at or call 553-6824.

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