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Braley: Protect student funding

BY GUEST OPINION | OCTOBER 22, 2014 5:00 AM

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As a student at Iowa State University, I used federal student loans to help pay my way through college. I understand just how important Pell Grants and other federal student aid programs are, because without them, I wouldn’t have been able to afford a college education.

A good education is a gateway to economic opportunity. In Iowa, more than 111,000 students received Pell Grants last year. Overall, students in Iowa received more than $1 billion in federal aid to help cover the cost of their education. Pell Grants, Stafford Loans, and federal work-study are just a few of the programs that help hundreds of thousands of Iowa’s students afford a college education. Here at University of Iowa, more than 4,000 students received nearly $16 million in Pell Grants last year to help cover the costs of tuition.

Still, more work needs to be done. With tuition costs skyrocketing, college costs are putting the dream of an affordable education out of reach for too many students and families. I believe we must do everything possible to make college more affordable. That’s why I support expanding Pell Grants, extending the college tax credit to offset tuition costs for middle class families, and keeping student interest rates and payments low.

My opponent, Joni Ernst, also went to Iowa State and took advantage of federal student loans to help pay her way through college. But unlike me, she doesn’t believe that today’s students and families in Iowa should have the same access to federal student aid that she did. In fact, she has voiced her support for closing the doors to the Department of Education, which would have devastating consequences for Iowa’s students and families. Eliminating the Department of Education would force Iowa students receiving Pell Grants to pay up to $5,730 more per year for college, drive students to take on thousands in debt through private lenders, and slash federal work-study aid.

Ernst also says that the federal government needs to get out of the student-loan business. She would privatize student loans, putting student loans in the hands of private banks and lenders on Wall Street. If you have a private student loan, you know how much higher the interest rates can be — 16 percent or more, compared with just 4.6 percent for federal loans. Loading thousands of dollars more debt on the backs of graduates just to pad profits for Wall Street is not right for Iowa students.

Ernst’s ideas have devastating consequences. In contrast, I’ve worked to reduce the burden of college costs. I will work to ensure that all of Iowa’s families have the same opportunities I had to build their own American dream. A college education is a gateway to that dream, and it shouldn’t be out of reach for anyone.

All too often, Congress looks out for the interests of the wealthy, the powerful, and the well-connected instead of working families like the one I grew up in here in Iowa. Iowans deserve a senator who will stand up for you. I’ll be a senator on your side, and break through the gridlock to work as a bridge builder, not a bridge burner.

The choice in this election couldn’t be clearer, and voting early is the simplest and easiest way to make sure that your voice is heard. You can vote early in person or by mail from now until Nov. 3. This week, University of Iowa students can vote at the Old Capitol Town Center from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Monday through Friday.  For more information on voting early by mail and early vote locations, visit vote.brucebraley.com.

Bruce Braley
U.S. Senate Candidate


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