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Contradicting Bills Could Impact Financial Aid for Students

Courtesy of Architect of the CapitolMembers of Congress introduced two bills recently which could mean big changes for Loyola students and their financial aid. Currently, about 98 percent of Loyola students receive some sort of financial aid each year in grants, loans or scholarships.

Loyola students could have more access to federal financial aid under a new bill introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives this summer.

The Aim Higher Act was introduced on July 24 to increase investment in student financial aid programs and allow more students to be considered for federal aid.

The Democrats on the Education and Workforce committee hope to reauthorize the Higher Education Act (HEA) of 1965, which originally established teacher preparation programs, federal student financial aid programs, international programs and graduate programs. The HEA is supposed to be reauthorized every six years, but it hasn’t been since 2008 due to disagreements among members of Congress.

The Prosper Act is the Republican party’s attempt at reauthorizing the HEA. The focus is to prioritize saving government money by reducing investment in student federal financial aid. The Prosper Act was passed in committee, but hasn’t advanced to a full vote in the House.

Raja Krishnamoorthi, the representative of Illinois’s 8th Congressional District serving on the Education and Workforce committee, didn’t respond to The Phoenix’s request for comment.

Nationwide, an estimated 13 million students receive federal financial aid each year. At Loyola, about 98 percent of full-time first-year students receive some form of financial aid each year, which is equivalent to 2,562 students.

Philip Hale, vice president of government affairs at Loyola, said the Aim Higher Act would benefit Loyola students, specifically undocumented students.

The bill expands students’ eligibility for federal financial aid to include Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) and undocumented students, which the current law doesn’t include.

“We have a number of undocumented students, and we have been very active in advocacy for the Dream Act and on behalf of DACA, and so this is something we are going to be looking at very closely as we are in a position to support,” Hale said.

Hale said because the bill was introduced recently, the university is still in the process of analyzing the Aim Higher Act.

As an institution, Loyola organized a group of faculty from each of the offices who are impacted by the HEA, which include Government Affairs, Finance, Student Engagement and Success, Student Development, Arrupe College, the Provost’s Office and Financial Assistance. The group meets periodically to discuss new proposals, formulate a response and communicate with Congress on the bills that will impact Loyola students.

Tobyn Friar, director of financial aid at Loyola, said the Aim Higher Act has different goals than the Prosper Act.

The Aim Higher Act focuses on student support by improving accessibility for financial aid, and the Prosper Act prioritizes cost savings for the government by investing less in federal aid.

According to Hale, if the Prosper Act were passed, it would result in 1,169 Loyola students losing their Supplemental Education Opportunity Grants (SEOG), about 1,600 students losing their perkins loans and an estimated 1,600 students losing their Grant Plus loans.

SEOG are given to students with the most amount of need-based aid. Perkins Loans are low interest loans for need-based students. Grant Plus Loans are given to need-based students to help pay for expenses not covered by financial aid.

Hale said Loyola opposes the Prosper Act due to the suggestions to reduce and sometimes completely eliminate opportunities for student financial support in the higher education community. Loyola has encouraged Congress to vote against the bill.

“We have expressed all of those concerns to the Illinois delegation in Congress, so we are on record as not so much opposing the whole thing, but saying these are the pieces we like, here’s some pieces we do not like,” Hale said.

Hale said the Prosper Act has some benefits for Loyola, specifically Year Round Pell Grants. The Prosper Act is hoping to provide grants for students throughout the entire calendar year, including summer courses.

Friar said the path state and federal governments have taken towards making opportunities for students to attend college in recent years has impacted the financial aid offices in colleges and universities across the country.

“We’ve seen [the national trend of] low income students who have recently completed high school are enrolling in college at higher rates than ever before. But their access to the kind of the financial aid piece has been less than their peers from previous years,” Friar said. “We are seeing more students going to school, but they are limited in their amount of resources that they have access to.”

According to Friar, students should get involved in government because any bill can directly impact Loyola students.

“If there are things in bills that would negatively impact our students, we want to be getting out there and talking to our representatives, getting students involved to support higher education. We don’t want any reductions in student aid,” Friar said.

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