Speeches & Floor Statements

Remarks of Sen. Alexander - Higher Education Amendments of 2005

Posted on September 9, 2005

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN) on Thursday praised Senate HELP committee passage of the Higher Education Amendments of 2005 (S.1614), which included a number of important provisions sought by Alexander, chairman of the the Senate Education and Early Childhood Development Subcommittee. In floor remarks following committee passage, Alexander said: “This bill is good for students and good for improving the quality of our colleges and universities. “For students, it increases the amount of Pell Grants from $4,050 to $4,500 over five years. Second, the bill gives students who want to use their Pell Grant during the summer the opportunity to do so, for the first time making Pell Grants available year-round. “In addition, Pell Grants will be larger for students who are majoring in math, sciences, or critical foreign languages, thereby encouraging students to pursue these fields. “For colleges and universities, this bill begins to relieve the oppressive paperwork burden the federal government places on them, freeing up scarce dollars to spend on improving quality, teaching and research, rather than paperwork. “For example, this legislation creates an expert panel to review, evaluate and streamline the 7,000 federal regulations that govern grants and loans to college students. Universities should be able to focus more on teaching and researching, and less on complying with reporting requirements. “In addition, for the first time, the federal government will be required to develop a compliance calendar, making it easier for our 6,000 colleges and universities to comply with federal rules, and helping them with institutional planning and in avoiding inadvertent errors in meeting these requirements. “Finally, universities that do a good job keeping down the rate of loan defaults will be given more flexibility in how they use federal dollars for grants and loans to students. “I’m delighted that the committee’s bill also included the Teach for America legislation I introduced with the Democratic Leader, Harry Reid. Expanding Teach for America will not only build a corps of young college graduates who spend two years teaching in schools in lower income areas, but a corps of expanding influential alumni who support quality public education. “We have the best colleges and universities in the world, but they need to continue to be the best in order to maintain our high standard of living. “The federal government is doing its part. Over the last five years, federal spending on higher education has increased 71.8 percent. At the same time, state funding for higher education has increased on average by only 6.8 percent, partly because of big increases in state Medicaid costs, which have increased over the same time by 35.6 percent. This in turn has meant that college tuition at public four year institutions has increased 38.2 percent nationally. “In Tennessee, the situation is equally pronounced. As I stated, federal spending on higher education has increased 71.9 percent over the past five years. In Tennessee, spending on higher education has increased 10.5 percent while Medicaid spending has increased by 71.1 percent. During this same time tuition at the University of Tennessee has increased by 43.4 percent. “I raise this because I hope in our discussion of the higher education bill that we will come to an understanding that one of the principal reasons for the big increases in tuition is the out-of-control state spending for Medicaid. Governors constantly have to fight to keep Medicaid spending under control so we will have enough money left for quality education. And if we do not have quality colleges and universities over the next 10 years, we will not be able to keep our standard of living as we compete with Japan, China, Germany, India, and Great Britain—all who recognize the superiority of American higher education and are taking significant steps to keep their brightest students home and to improve their institutions. “I am delighted to be able to salute Senator Mike Enzi and Senator Ted Kennedy on a good piece of legislation for students, a good piece of legislation for colleges and universities, and an excellent piece of legislation for our country.”