Press Release

August 1, 2008

Washington, DC – U.S. Senator Benjamin L. Cardin (D-MD) released the following statement after the Senate passed the College Opportunity and Affordability Act (H.R. 4137) by a vote of 83-8-1. The bill boosts Pell grants from $4,800 in 2009 to $6,000 and to $8,000 by 2014.

“The College Opportunity and Affordability Act makes significant progress toward one of the most important responsibilities elected representatives shoulder; opening the doors of educational opportunity for each American child and every American family. Those doors have become heavier and heavier in this country with tuition costs rising while wages remain stagnant. 

“In the five school years between 2001 and 2006, the cost of attending four-year public colleges in Maryland increased 32 percent. But the median household income increased just 18.4 percent.  For too many years, Congress didn’t do enough to help bridge the gap.

“Last year, Congress took a critical step toward making college more affordable by passing the College Cost Reduction and Access Act, legislation that increased Pell grants, halved student loan interest rates, caped student loan repayments, and provided loan forgiveness for those who enter and stick with careers in public service. 

“This bill goes even further to help those students who have earned entrance into college meet the costs of attendance.  The College Opportunity and Affordability Act holds colleges more accountable for rising tuition and textbook costs; eases access to financial aid by simplifying the Federal financial aid application process; prohibits unethical practices in the student loan industry; and, in these difficult economic times, increases grant aid to the students who need it most.  These changes will make a difference for students all across Maryland.

“If we, as a nation, are going to remain competitive in a global economy, we must ensure that many more students are prepared for and succeed in post-secondary education in this country. The College Opportunity and Affordability Act will make a difference for the schooling factor with the most profound effect on student achievement: teacher quality.  It promotes partnerships between teacher education programs and high-need districts like the partnership between the University of Maryland and the Prince George’s County Schools, and Frostburg State’s collaboration with the Frederick and Washington County Public Schools.  The bill contains greater support for TRIO and GEAR UP programs, like the University of Maryland Eastern Shore (UMES) Upward Bound Program, that prepare low-income students and first-generation college students to succeed in higher education.

“On behalf of all Marylanders, I am particularly proud of the critical role my colleague Senator Barbara Mikulski played, shepherding this bill toward final passage. By increasing access to post-secondary education, this Congress has acted to secure the gateway to the American Dream for our nation’s students and the pathway to our economic success and security as a nation.”