Congressman Faleomavaega announced today that the House, by a vote of 253 - 171, passed legislation to reform the federal student loan program, provide for modernization, renovation and repair of public school facilities, enhance early learning, and strengthen community colleges. The Student Aid and Fiscal Responsibility Act of 2009, HR 3221, embodies one of the three pillars of President Obama’s plan for turning the economy around and creating jobs, which include investments in education, health care, and in a new energy policy for the future.
“I want to commend Chairman Miller of the House Committee on Education and Labor for his leadership in producing this important piece of legislation that provides many benefits to our schools and families across the United States. Especially in these dire economic times, HR 3221 provides much needed assistance not only to make education more affordable and accessible, but also assistance to increase the number of degrees and certificate completion rates,” Faleomavaega said.
The Student Aid and Responsibility Act of 2009 underscores the value of education for our people. Among other things, HR 3221 increases funding for the Pell Grant scholarship program to a new maximum award level of $5,550 in 2010 and in subsequent years projected to reach maximum level of $6,900 by 2019. Additionally, HR 3221 also streamlines the application for determining Student Aid, making the process less complicated and less burdensome for many families and students.
Moreover, HR 3221 provides reforms to the Stafford Loan program that will result in savings of up to $87 million over the next 10 years. These savings will be reinvested to expand educational opportunities for students and families, and will also help pay down the federal deficit.
Recognizing community colleges as the backbone of our Nation’s educational and workforce systems, the new legislation gives authorization to the Secretary of Education to award grants to States and Territories for the construction of new community college facilities, and for the modernization, renovation, and improvement of existing facilities. Such funding will provide much needed capital to leverage and to secure further funding sources to strengthen and develop community colleges across the country. The target is to improve facilities that are primarily for instruction and research and student housing.
“For years now, our own American Samoa Community College (ASCC) has produced many graduates that have moved on to four year colleges and further studies in the mainland. In a recent news article in the Samoa News, it was reported that for the current Fall 2009 semester, ASCC has seen it’s largest ever increase in fall enrollment. In addition, it was reported that ASCC has an enrollment of 1,978 students taking regular daytime classes, and about 200 enrollees in the American Samoa Teacher Education Program (ASTEP), also offered through ASCC. Altogether, for the fall 2009 semester alone, ASCC has seen an 8% increase in enrollment from last year,” Faleomavaega said.
“Yet, with the increase in enrollment comes additional challenges for the ASCC faculty and administrators. Especially in light of the dire economic conditions facing many local governments across the country, HR 3221 provides the ideal framework to provide funding and assistance to community colleges such as our own ASCC,” Faleomavaega added.
“While I recognize that this is only the beginning, I am glad nevertheless that the House has passed this important pillar of President Obama’s plan for economic recovery. My hope is this bill will provide further support and opportunities for students and families in our Territory,” Faleomavaega concluded.