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As August comes to a close, students of all ages are stocking up on notebooks, rulers, textbooks, pens and pencils: the telltale signs that another school year is beginning. As teachers and students head back to school we are reminded of the importance of education. President John F. Kennedy once said “let us think of education as the means of developing our greatest abilities, because in each of us there is a private hope and dream which, fulfilled, can be translated into benefit for everyone and greater strength for our nation.” I believe that the structure and quality of education is a direct reflection of the strength of our nation and I continue working to ensure that our education system is accessible and beneficial to all of our nation’s citizens.
For many students and families there is the promise of higher education. But for far too many others, the burden of tuition costs is seemingly insurmountable. In Virginia, undergraduate students are paying nearly 7% more in tuition and fees than they did last year. The skyrocketing cost of higher education is a dangerous trend given the often integral role it plays in attaining the American dream and maintaining our competitiveness in a changing global economy.
Recently the Congress passed the first major overhaul, in a decade, of the Higher Education Act, the federal aid legislation that provides grants and loans to college students every year. The Higher Education Reauthorization Act helps to make higher education more affordable and accessible to all Americans by streamlining the federal student financial aid application process, allowing students to receive year-round Pell Grant scholarships, and increasing college aid and support programs for veterans and military families.
This comprehensive legislation also makes textbook costs more manageable for students by, among other things, helping them plan for textbook expenses in advance of each semester, strengthens college readiness programs, strengthens our nation’s workforce and economic competitiveness by boosting science, technology, and foreign language educational opportunities and creates a $10,000 student loan forgiveness program for graduates to take jobs in high-need fields such as nursing, early childhood education, teaching and other important professions.
One of the most important gifts we can give to our children and grandchildren is a quality education, because education is the key that unlocks the door to opportunity. With so much at stake here in Virginia and across the country, I will continue working in Congress to pass legislation like the Higher Education Reauthorization Act, which will expand college access for current and future students, thereby better preparing the next generation for an increasingly competitive global economy.