Update: On Monday, April 22, I also testified before the D.C. Council Education Committee on the importance of the Mayor’s Scholarship Fund.
On Tuesday, April 16, 2013 I testified before the House Education and the Workforce Subcommittee on Higher Education and Workforce Training. This hearing is one of the early preparatory steps that Congress is taking on the way to reauthorization of the Higher Education Act that provides all of the Title IV funds for federal financial aid — student loans, work-study grants, and Pell Grants. See the webcast of the hearing here. See also the news coverage of the hearing on the NAICU website and also at Insidehighered.com
In preparation for my testimony, I invited Trinity students to tell me what their federal loans and Pell Grants mean to them, and to note changes that Congress should consider to improve federal financial aid. I was delighted to receive so many excellent replies! And everyone agreed that I could use their quotes by name. Thank you! I could not include every reply in my formal testimony, but I have linked my testimony to this blog so that members of Congress can read ALL of the words of Trinity students. All students gave permission to use their names. Some comments edited for length.
Hear the voices of Trinity students!
“Because of federal loans I am able to obtain my second-degree in nursing while juggling the duties of being a mother, wife, student and employee.” (Tamina Umana, Second Baccalaureate student in Nursing)
“Because of my federal loans I am able to continue my education as a single parent. My federal loans have prevented me from becoming a statistic. My federal loans will allow my child to see a strong, empowered woman who will one day become an educator.” (Leontia Collins, Junior, Education)
“Because of my Pell grant, I will be educated.
Because of my Pell grant, I will have a career.
Because of my Pell grant, I will take care of my family.
Because of my Pell grant, I will not be a statistic.
Because of my Pell grant, I will be a valuable asset to society.
Because of my Pell grant, I will be successful.
Because of my Pell grant, I will be free.”
(Ruth Graves, Senior, Business Administration)
“I am able to work as a student worker on campus [on federal work-study], which enables me to afford for my transportation everyday at school and take care of the little things that I need.” (Lyzianah Emakoua, sophomore, Political Science and Criminal Justice)
“I’m a 32 year old female, who grew up in poverty; unfortunately College wasn’t a word that was used in my household. My mother was a single mother, and my father passed away when I was only nine years of age. So my mother’s only concern was making sure I didn’t become part of the statistics as a teenage mother like herself and to work in the government when I got older. Fortunately, I didn’t become a statistic when it came to becoming a teenage mother, but I knew I had a bigger calling than just working in the government. I wanted to and will become a Social Worker and I’m only able to make this happen due to federal loans.” (Shauntae Wills, sophomore, Human Relations)
“I am the mother of 7 children and I have encouraged all of my children to attend college for as long as I can remember. Unfortunately without federal financial aid and/or a Pell Grant it would be virtually impossible for me or my children to pursue a college education.” (Rosalind Lyle, Junior, Pre-Nursing)
“Pell Grants and federal loans give me the opportunity as the first generation member in my family to attend college. …Financial Aid changed my life because it gives me the opportunity to create, build, reform and make my dreams come true. If I work hard to make my dreams come true, then I will become a valuable member to our society. With my intellectual knowledge and skills I will be able to give back to my community and to the society…” (Minette Achankeng, Junior, Political Science)
“Because of my Pell Grant and student loans I am able to finish my bachelor’s degree at the age of 55 after a severe battle with cancer and other disabling diseases. It gives me the hope as well as the knowledge to be able to go back to the workforce…” (Rose M. Zuffi, Freshman, Communications)
“Because of federal loans, I am able to complete a master’s degree in counseling and work towards providing much needed services to the Hispanic community that I currently teach. I am deeply disturbed at the structure of student loans. The federal funds rate to banks is 0%, but students are charged 6.9% on student loans even though we are at all time low lending rates. Further, students are unable to discharge their student loans through bankruptcy. The banks are loaning money to students and receiving a guaranteed, inordinately high interest rate to do so. This, after banks required a bailout by the federal government to avert the potential catastrophe they created, is unacceptable.” (James Risse, MA in Counseling)
“Because of Federal loans I am able to be the first woman in my family to attend college. Federal loans provide me with the opportunity to receive not only a Bachelor`s Degree, but continue my education and pursue my Ph.D in psychology which will enable me to help my community.” (Jelisa E. Glanton, Junior, Psychology)
“Federal loans are the only way that I am able to put myself through school. Without it, I would not be able to serve my country and its aging population as a young nurse by the year 2014.” (Marissa Rose Torres, Junior, Nursing)
“Because of my Pell Grant, I am able to further my education stress-free without worrying about how I am going to pay for college.” (Ikea Hicks, freshman, Business and Math)
“Because of my federal loans, I was able to continue pursuing my Masters degrees after losing my job….I am able to concentrate on my education without having to worry how to pay for it right now.” (Meg Ann Imig MSA Nonprofit Management and Community Health)
“If there could be one change in Federal financial aid that would help me , I wish it would be to have the federal government also pay the interest on the unsubsidized loans that we receive. If they just make subsidized loans then that would be great but when you are accumulating interest on a loan for years then you are paying back so much after we get out of school. So people have been in school for over four years because of things that happen in our lives and having that loan multiply and grow makes it harder for someone to pay it back.” (Jasmine Acker, Senior, Human Relations)
“Because of both my Pell Grant and Federal Loans, I am able to succeed with furthering my education in a degree driven society, where education is your future! Without them education would but only be a dream not only for me but for millions of students in the United States. Also the fact that the Pell Grant is awarded and not necessary to pay back allows a certain amount of pressure to subside when taking out federal loans! Now if only the interest rates were low and fixed American debt would not be so high!” (Adia Vaile, Freshman, Pre-Nursing)
“I am a mother of a teenager and young adult who passionately aspires to be a Health & Wellness Coach/Motivational Speaker. Simply put, Financial Aid has served to give me hope in terms of leading a purpose driven life. (Mariela Kinch Edwards, Junior, Communications)
“Because of my Pell Grant and loans, I am able to remain in college, accomplish my dream goals to better assist my community (District of Columbia) and my family. You see, I come from a low-income family where none of my parents are high school nor college graduates due to the poverty they had suffered in their home countries. … I will also be the first in my family seeking and hopefully attaining a college degree. Thanks to federal aid I am steps closer to those goals!” (Diana Contreras, Junior, Human Relations)
“Because of federal loans, I am able to attend graduate school, to complete my Master’s of Arts in Teaching. This opportunity allows me to be fulfill my goal of being a highly effective educator and being able to give back to my community. I grew up with phenomenal educators and role models in my life, now as an adult I want children to believe in themselves because of my leadership and role in education. Federal loans has saved me from financial stress, anxiety attacks and any worry of not being able to go back to school. I’m beyond appreciative of federal loans.” (Mieya Timmons, MAT Program)
“Because of federal loans, I was able to return to school after 18 years. In the six years I have lived in DC, I have worked as a waitress because I only have a BA in International Relations from a small North Carolina university and have never made any inroads towards a job in my field. I am 43 years old and have never earned more than $32,000 in a year since I graduated from undergrad in 1993. I believe my master’s in Nonprofit Management will help me to finally achieve my goals. Trinity was the school that gave me that chance. Without student loans, I would never have had the money to return for more schooling.” (Patricia Jean Huffman, MSA in Nonprofit Management)
“Because Of My Pell grant I am able to pay my expenses for college and further my education.” (Pebla Cotton, Freshman)
“Because of my federal loans I was able to fulfill my dreams by going off to college and receiving my Bachelor’s Degree in Child Development and Family Studies. I am also able to currently work towards my MAT in Early Childhood Education.” (Sharneice Jones, MAT Program)
“Because of my federal loans, I am able to attend college without burdening my parents who already spent half of their lifetime savings on my education. These loans help me pay for college and in a sense, they help my younger brother too. Rather than having my parents paying two college tuitions, I now save my parents money and will prevent my younger brother from having to take out student loans in his name.” (Leticia Martinez, Junior)
“Because of my federal loans I am able to attend college full time. Because of my federal loan I am able to be the first in my family to complete and graduate college. Also because of my federal loan I am able to do what my grandfather was not able to do. When my grandfather was eighteen he was accepted into Virginia State and was unable to go because he could not afford it. If things were still like they were 62 years ago I would also not be able to graduate first in my family from Trinity Washington University in May 2013.” (Brytnee Smith, Senior, Psychology)
“I have both the Pell Grant and federal loans; with both I am able to pay for my education and it’s because of that help I am able to complete my year at Trinity. I come from a working class family and I am the first one to complete a college education. If there was a chance to change the federal aid, that will help me, it will be to provide more financial help for students that are struggling economically because the cost of attending college is expensive.” (Diana Umana, Freshman, Pre-Nursing)
“During my undergraduate term, I received a Pell Grant that positioned me to pursue an education in international business development. I was able to travel extensively with Trinity Washington University to shape my career path. My academic studies included traveling to Mexico for one month. I also traveled to Germany, Czech Republic, Hungary, Austria, Turkey, Greece, Spain and Morocco. During these travels, I carried out in-depth analyses of public and private sector economic frameworks and multi lateral government strategic issues. I worked full-time and studied for my degree. I worked in the international field for more than ten years. I am currently studying for my masters with Trinity Washington University. I received an education loan to help me pursue a higher education. I plan to change my career and work in the financial field–in particular financial planning or investment banking. I am passionate about both fields and believe that financial planning strengthens the economic foundation for individuals, families and businesses. While investment banking helps companies build capital to strengthen their intrinsic value, employ more people, and sustain a robust economy. In essence, students loans other educational funding are very good for the strategic outlook of our country, and create pathways for a more fruitful standard of living.” (Rahni Williams, Trinity ’99, MBA Program)
“Because of federal loans I am able to attend college period. If it were not for these contributions, I would not be able to afford college unless I found scholarships that would assist me. My parents are both retired and therefore on a fixed income. If there wasn’t I did not have the financial aid package that I have now, a monthly question in my household, which has been asked before would be “are we making a tuition payment or paying this month’s mortgage?” (Davani Pendleton, Sophomore, Political Science)
“I am a senior at Trinity, due to graduate in May 2013. Because of federal loans I am able to get an education, without it I would not be able to be educated to college level. I am solely reliant upon federal loans because I would have no means of paying for my tuition fees. I would be nowhere near the finish line had it not been for the federal loan support. Also, if I was not able to obtain an education, I am not sure how I would be able to continue, to confidently express and articulate myself in open dialogue, discussions and applying for jobs etc. The same federal loan that is supporting my way through college will lead in turn, to pave a way for me to obtain a degree and from then on, become a knowledgeable, productive member of society that can contribute to effective leadership through the broad overview of many courses I have learnt through the gift of federal loans, which has been the force that has allowed me to even have the capacity to be able concentrate on school fully and partake in my academics. Had it not been for federal loans and Pell grants, my father would have not been able to continue his college education to completion. It is for this very reason that it has been instilled in me to continue to leap forward in my education and continue to the highest degree. I will not be able to achieve this, if federal loans are cut. Also, my younger brother’s fees are completely paid in full by my father and there is no way my father could afford to pay both for both of our tuition in full as a single parent with no assistance.” (Vanna Tuffuo, Senior, Communication)
Join the conversation! What does federal financial aid mean to you? What is the one change you wish Congress would make to the program? Use the “comment” box below, or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I will add your comments to those above. Let me know if I can use your name, your year and your major program. Thanks!