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Affordable education becomes rare commodity

Congress' ridiculous attempt to balance the federal budget will leave some students unable to pay for college. The passage of the Deficit Reduction Act in February cuts the federal student loan program by $12 billion and raises interest rates on Stafford Loans. An assault is taking place on affordable higher education.

The DRA will prohibit students from consolidating their student loans while they are attending school. Many students rely on consolidation to lock into low interest rates, reducing their monthly payments and the number of checks they have to write. The current Stafford Loan interest rate of 4.7 percent will rise to 6.8 percent on July 1. What happens to those students who don't have the money to pay for the rising cost of education and rely heavily on federal loans to help pay their way? The total amount a student can borrow while working toward an undergraduate degree is $23,000 in federal aid.

Timing couldn't be worse with tuition costs rising at Mills. Students who struggled to pay $27,750 in tuition for 2005-2006 wonder how they will can afford $30,300 for the 2006-2007 year. President Holmgren sent a letter to students and their families reminding them of the planned increase. The letter also states that Mills "plans to award more than $10.5 million in College-funded grants and scholarships to Mills undergraduate students" for the 2006-2007 school year. The College's Web site states that they awarded $10.3 million for the 2005-2006 school year. We hope this increase is adequate to cover those students who may not be able to borrow more because of loan interest rate increases. Many of us borrow the maximum amount each year and still use the Tuition Management System to pay off the remainder of our tuition in monthly installments. Paying nearly $3,000 more is daunting to us.

We hope that the federal government and colleges and universities take notice that in order to truly keep campuses representative of the United States they have to make education accessible to everyone who wants it.