Our view: A bill worth a few green bills

The U.S. Senate is slated to vote soon on a bill that has added importance for many of us.

No, it has nothing to do with health care. But the Student Aid and Fiscal Responsibility Act could be just as important to our future.

With the possibility – or probability – of continued tuition rises, families will need as much help as they can get to afford higher education. That’s what makes this bill so important.

The Student Aid Act proposes a $200 increase in the maximum Pell Grant and the addition of federal money to the Perkins Loan Program. Instead of having to take loans from banks, students could get them from the government.

Mark Evans, director of financial aid at Kent State, said the changes “would make a significant impact on helping families finance higher education.”

We need that significant impact, especially in the current economic climate. Ohio universities are already struggling because of the past year’s economic downturn and could take a harder hit if the state has to make cuts to higher education. Cuts to higher education would lead to higher tuition, leading to more economic heartache for college families.

And college costs are more than just higher tuition. Students face higher housing costs with each passing year, not to mention other necessities like food. Many students take years to pay off their college loan debt to banks.

With that in mind, it makes sense for this bill to pass.

In September, the House of Representatives voted by a wide margin in favor of the Student Aid Act. Now, it’s the Senate’s turn. We urge the Senate to follow the House’s example and vote the bill into law.

It’s not a matter of money. Obviously, the nation’s finances are still on shaky ground after all of last year’s turmoil. However, the Congressional Budget Office estimated the government would save about $80 billion by passing the Student Aid Act. With that kind of savings, why not pass it?

The Senate has other important issues to think about, health care being chief among them. But President Barack Obama made higher education – specifically, affording higher education – a priority during his campaign last year. Passing this bill would make that priority a reality.

And to us, lawmakers need to do more than just pass the Student Aid Act. They must also do their best to explain to college students nationwide about what changes are being made through it.

As college students, we’re not all well-versed in finance – our purchases reflect that sometimes. The changes being made through the Student Aid Act are complex, so lawmakers should do their best to make the bill more understandable.

Other issues have taken hold of the nation’s consciousness this fall. We just hope the government won’t let student financial aid get lost in the shuffle.