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Hillary Clinton: Expanding College Affordability

Hillary Clinton has said a key to making America strong and confident is a higher education system accessible to all who seek it. Sen. Clinton fought for a fairer student loan repayment system, worked to increase public awareness of financial aid opportunities and fought to protect and preserve federal Pell Grants for student borrowers. She helped support veterans who are continuing their educations, and as Arkansas First Lady she headed a program to aid single parents getting their degrees.

Boosting Awareness of Student Financial Aid

Introducing legislation that would expand public awareness of financial aid opportunities, Senator Clinton made the case that such an outreach program could increase attendance and student retention, especially for non-traditional students.

Sen. Clinton introduced legislation to boost awareness of student financial aid through outreach programs.

Senator Clinton introduced the Nontraditional Student Success Act three times. The legislation directed the creation of “a website and brochures for providing outreach about financial aid and education tax credits.” The outreach effort would have been targeted towards “employers, one-stop centers, Head Start centers, and other locations the Secretary of Education determines appropriate.” Introducing the legislation in 2006, Senator Clinton noted its proposal for “an information campaign so that students will know more about the financial aid available to them. Research shows that one of the most significant challenges to making ‘lifelong learning’ a reality is to overcome the perception held by many nontraditional students, especially first-generation and adults with few work skills, that they are not ‘student material.’ A direct mailing campaign combined with outreach to employers about the financial resources available to non-traditional students could significantly boost attendance and retention of non-traditional students.” [S.2360, 4/29/04; Congressional Record, Page S4695, 4/29/04; S.3528, 6/15/06; S.301, 1/16/07]

A public awareness campaign on financial aid was started as part of the Higher Education Opportunity Act.

Enacted August 14th, 2008, the Higher Education Opportunity Act included a section directing the Secretary of Education to “implement a public awareness campaign in order to increase national awareness regarding the availability of financial aid under this title. The public awareness campaign shall disseminate accurate information regarding the availability of financial aid under this title and shall be implemented, to the extent practicable, using a variety of media, including print, television, radio, and the internet.” Praising the enactment of the Higher Education Opportunity Act, Senator Clinton stated that “[n]ontraditional students are not only pursuing their goal of obtaining a college degree, but are also juggling the responsibilities of work and family… Today we are opening the doors of higher education wider than ever, helping to fulfill the historic promise of the Higher Education Act.” [H.R.4137, 11/9/07; Senator Clinton press release, 8/15/08 (via archive.org)]

Fair Student Loan Repayment

As Senator Clinton noted when she introduced the Student Borrower Bill of Rights, student loan debt “can put people in economic handcuffs,” preventing students from taking noble but lower-paying jobs or purchasing their first homes. Senator Clinton fought in the Senate to allow student borrowers to make monthly loan payments that are fair percentages of their income. Just over a year after Senator Clinton proposed income-based repayment of student loans, legislation was enacted to do just that.  

Sen. Clinton introduced legislation to allow student loan repayments to be a certain percentage of income.

In a section in her Student Borrower’s Bill of Rights titled, “A Right to Make Affordable Loan Payments,” Senator Clinton would have required the Secretary of Education to “limit the total monthly payment amount for all such loans of a student borrower to not more than” a level determined by their income. Introducing her Student Borrower Bill of Rights in 2006, Senator Clinton stated that the bill would “give student borrowers the right to make fair, monthly payments that do not exceed a percentage of their incomes and fair interest rates and fees.” [Congressional Record, Page S5344, 5/26/06; S.3255, 5/26/06; S.511, 2/7/07]

Income-based student loan repayment was enacted as part of the College Cost Reduction and Access Act.

Enacted September 27th, 2007, the College Cost Reduction and Access Act (CCRAA) included a section titled “Income-Based Repayment.” As the Dallas Morning News noted after its passage, the CCRAA “caps student loan repayments at a reasonable percentage of income. It’s a sliding scale, so the lower the borrower’s income, the lower the percentage cap.” Praising the passage of the College Cost Reduction and Access Act, Senator Clinton said she was “proud that the new bill that the Democratic majority just passed and was signed into law provides an income-based repayment program like I had in law school and based on what I championed in the Senate.” [H.R.2669, 6/12/07; Senator Clinton speech, 10/11/07 (via archive.org); Dallas Morning News, 10/9/07 (via Baylor University)]

Making Lenders Provide More Information to Student Borrowers

 Students deserve to make choices about their college loans based on sound facts. Senator Clinton fought in the Senate to push college lenders to provide student borrowers with more helpful and timely information about their loans.

Sen. Clinton introduced legislation to force lenders to provide more timely information to student borrowers.

In section of her Student Borrower’s Bill of Rights titled “A Right To Timely Information About Loans,” Senator Clinton would have required student lenders to provide borrowers with regular updates on, among other things, “the borrower’s principal borrowed;” “the interest level on such loan;” and “the total amount the borrower has paid for the loan, including the amount the borrower has paid in interest, the amount the borrower has paid in fees, and the amount the borrower has paid against the balance.” [S.3255, 5/26/06; S.511, 2/7/07]

The Higher Education Opportunity Act required lenders to give accurate and timely information to borrowers.

The Higher Education Opportunity Act, which was enacted August 14th, 2008, included a section titled “Student Loan Information By Eligible Lenders.” This section required lenders to “provide thorough and accurate loan information” to borrowers “in simple and understandable terms” on, among other things, “the principal amount of the loan;” “the stated interest on the loan;” and “the amount of any charges, such as the origination fee and Federal default fee.” [H.R.4137, 11/9/07]

Helping Veterans Continue their Education

Senator Clinton pressed for the creation of campus centers to coordinate assistance for veterans pursuing postsecondary education.

Sen. Clinton cosponsored legislation to establish centers on college campuses to assist veteran students.

Senator Clinton cosponsored the Supporting Education for Returning Veterans Act. The legislation would have established “a Center for Excellence for Veteran Student Success” on college campuses that “provides a single point of contact to coordinate comprehensive support services for veterans who are students.” [S.2677, 2/28/08] 

Centers for Excellence for Veteran Student Success were enacted as part of the Higher Education Opportunity Act.

Enacted August 14th, 2008, the Higher Education Opportunity Act included a section “establishing a Center of Excellence for Veteran Student Success” on college campuses “to provide a single point of contact to coordinate comprehensive support services for veteran students…” Hailing the enactment of the Higher Education Opportunity Act, Senator Clinton’s office noted that “Representative Ruben Hinojosa (D-TX) introduced similar legislation” to the proposed Centers for Excellence for Veteran Student Success “in the House of Representatives and was instrumental in ensuring its inclusion in the final bill.” As the Veterans Affairs Director of Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment Service put it in 2011, the program “provides grant funds to colleges to encourage model programs” to “address the academic, financial, physical, and social needs of Veteran-students.” [H.R.4137, 11/9/07; Senator Clinton press release, 8/15/08 (via archive.org); Fanning Testimony, House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, 3/31/10]

Helping Student Borrowers Consolidate Loans

Senator Clinton introduced legislation in the Senate to repeal the so-called “single holder” rule that limited the number of lenders from which student borrowers could choose from to consolidate their student loans. Following the enactment of this proposal in 2006, USA Today observed that, “[i]f you’re planning to consolidate your student loans, you no longer have to dance with the date that brung you.”

Sen. Clinton introduced a bill to allow borrowers to shop around for a consolidation loan from more student lenders.

In a section of her Student Borrower’s Bill of Rights titled, “Repeal of Single Holder Rule,” Senator Clinton would have amended the Higher Education Act of 1965 by repealing “the single holder rule which requires borrowers to apply to their current lenders for FFEL [Federal Family Education Loan] consolidation loans.” [S.3255, 5/26/06]

The ‘single holder’ rule for loan consolidation was repealed in 2006.

According to the Congressional Research Service, the Emergency Supplemental Defense Appropriations bill, enacted on June 15th, 2006, amended the Higher Education Act of 1965 “to repeal the single holder rule for student consolidation loans which limits such loans to a lender which holds an outstanding loan of the borrower.” USA Today reported after its enactment that the law “eliminated a decades-old rule that required borrowers whose student loans were all from one lender to consolidate with that lender,” also noting to readers that, “[i]f you’re planning to consolidate your student loans, you no longer have to dance with the date that brung you.” In remarks re-introducing her Student Borrower Bill of Rights in 2007, Senator Clinton noted she was “happy to report that two of the provisions from the Student Borrower Bill of Rights Act of the 109th Congress were enacted into law through the Emergency Supplemental Appropriations Act for Defense 2006. These provisions, a repeal of the single holder rule and consolidation between loan programs, will enable borrowers to choose lenders with acceptable income-sensitive repayment terms when consolidating student loans.” [H.R.4939, 3/13/06; “End of ‘single holder rule’ lets student loan consolidators shop around,” USA Today, 6/20/06; Congressional Record, Page S1711, 2/7/07]

Supporting Pell Grants

Senator Clinton has long championed America’s Pell Grant program that provides need-based grants to middle and lower-income students to expand access to higher education. From promoting its expansion on the presidential campaign trail to fighting attempts to divert or cut funding to the program, Senator Clinton has been there to protect the program for America’s future and current students.

Sen. Clinton introduced a bill to allow students to make Pell Grants available year-round.

A section of Senator Clinton’s Nontraditional Student Success Act, which she introduced three times, would have required the Secretary of Education to “allow a student to receive 2 Federal Pell grants during a single award year.” Speaking to her legislation in 2004, Senator Clinton noted it would create “a pilot program that will make Pell Grants available year round so students are not forced to discontinue their studies for the three-month summer period.” [S.2360, 4/29/04; Congressional Record, Page S4695, 4/29/04; S.3528, 6/15/06; S.301, 1/16/07]

The Higher Education Opportunity Act allowed student borrowers to receive 2 Pell Grants in one award year.

A section of the Higher Education Opportunity Act, enacted on August 14, 2008, required the Secretary of Education to “award a student not more than two Federal Pell Grants during a single award year to permit such student to accelerate the student’s progress toward a degree or certificate.” [H.R.4137, 11/9/07]

Sen. Clinton fought to restore the Bush Administration’s cuts to Pell Grants.

Senator Clinton fought against the Bush Administration’s “revisions to financial aid eligibility formulas” by cosponsoring an amendment to “restore $270 million in Pell Grants” to the appropriations bill that funded the Departments of Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education in 2004. Senator Clinton also cosponsored Senator Patty Murray’s Student Loan Abuse Prevention Act. Senator Clinton predicted the bill would “produce an estimated savings of $5 billion over 10 years” to “be redirected to fund the successful Pell Grant Programs for college students.” [Senator Clinton press release, 9/16/03 (via archive.org); S.Amdt.1602, 9/9/03; Senator Clinton press release, 10/12/04 (via archive.org); S. 2861, 9/29/04] 

Helping Single Parents Continue their Education

Hillary Clinton served as the founding chairwoman of the Arkansas Single Parent Scholarship Fund. Established in 1990 under then-Governor Clinton, the program has awarded more than 30,000 scholarships since that time to help single parents finish post-secondary education and find better jobs.

Hillary Clinton was the founding chair of an Arkansas program to help low-income single parents get their degrees.

The Arkansas Single Parent Scholarship Fund [ASPSF] was established in 1990 “to assist low-income single parents to complete their post-secondary education in preparation for skilled employment.” According ASPSF, as of 2013, the fund had “awarded a combined total of 33,458 scholarships worth $18,811,152 since 1990.” As the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette noted in 2009, “Hillary Clinton was the founding chairman of the Arkansas Single Parent Scholarship Fund.” Hillary Clinton made the case that many single parents are not “looking for a handout or a free ride” but are “eager to make the sacrifices and commitments necessary to further their education” and “improve conditions for themselves and their families.” Clinton also advocated for the growth of the program beyond Arkansas, suggesting there “is no reason that this wonderful idea can’t work” in other states. [“Talking It Over,” Hillary Clinton, 3/11/97; “About,” Arkansas Single Parent Scholarship Fund, Accessed 5/8/14; Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, 7/1/09]