Federal student aid

The Senate should approve of a $2,000 increase in unsubsidized federal loans.

The House of Representatives version of the $800 billion-plus stimulus package contains provisions that raise the maximum amount undergraduate college students can borrow in unsubsidized Stafford Loans to $8,000 from $6,000 through a four-year period. Although deliberations are ongoing, this $2,000 increase is currently absent from the Senate version of the bill. With cooperation from college and university officials, the provision could ease troubles students are facing in obtaining college financing. Student groups across the country are urging the Senate not to incorporate any increases in the amount students can borrow because they fear it could act as an excuse for higher education institutions and states to raise tuition. Simply put, students do not trust the reaction of their colleges and universities if the provision makes it into law. Those institutions are nevertheless going to raise tuition, increase in federal dollars or not. And students are already seeing federal loans and grants not pace with tuition and fee increases, resulting in them turning to private options that are increasingly unreliable due to the credit freeze. This $2,000 increase would ensure students that they still have adequate resources available to them in this time of crisis. But federal lawmakers should also consider other moves to ease the economic stress students are facing. Easing term limits and finding ways to offer more subsidized loans are just two examples. If these provisions are to be enacted, colleges and universities will need to be responsible in working with them. Matching increases in borrowing limits with increases in tuition will cause our students even more harm, effectively making the intentions of this provision a disservice to all students.