On Thursday, Sept 17th, the House of Representatives passed the Student Aid and Fiscal Responsibility Act (SAFRA) by a vote of 254 to 171. The bill, which will now go to the Senate, provides $40 billion to increase the maximum annual Pell Grant scholarship from currently $5,350 to $6,900 by 2019.

The bill also requires all federal loans to originate from the federal Direct Loan program, where all funds are administered and distributed by the Department of Education, by July 1, 2010.

Other provisions in the bill include bolstering the current Perkins loans system by providing further funding and placing it under the existing Direct Loan program, investing $2.55 billion in Historically Black Colleges and Universities and Minority-Serving Institutions, and cutting down the number of questions on the FAFSA form by allowing students and families to apply for aid using the information on their tax returns.

U.S. Congressman Ciro D. Rodriguez, Representative of the 23rd district, voted in favor of the bill. “This bill is a long-term and critical investment in our young people,” said Rodriguez in a press release from his office, “the changes will help students attend college or receive career training which will make them successful members of our future workforce.”

According to the Rodriguez’s press release, SAFRA will help nearly double the Pell Grant recipients in the 23rd district, from 22,671 this year to 40,010 in 2019. During the same time period, funding for the Pell Grant in the district will go up from $61 million to $153 million.

UTSA Director of Enrollment Services, Eric Cooper, claims that SAFRA is beneficial for UTSA and its students. “Since our tuition and fees are lower than a lot of private schools or other state schools, the Pell grant will help us tremendously,” said Cooper. “The typical Pell Grant right now is around $2,625 for a semester, and typically tuition and fees for 12 hours is around $3,400 to $3,600 depending on what courses you’re taking. If the Pell Grant goes up at all, it only helps our enrollment.”

He also notes that UTSA already moved to direct lending this year. “The reason we did that is because so many of the lenders had bailed,” he said. “It was a significant change for us and caused a lot of issues from our end, but we did think it was significantly beneficial for the students.”

Cooper also stated that the rise in the Pell Grant would do more than just balance out rising tuition cost and fees.

“If the federal government increases the Pell Grant, and we moderately increase tuition and fees, then we’re good to go,” said Cooper. “We’re governed by the UT system that tells us how much we can ask for each year. As long as they continue to make appropriate changes to tuition and fees to go along with the Pell Grant, than…in essence, increases in the Pell Grant should make [college] more affordable.”

Despite this, Cooper does not foresee any changes for UTSA’s Strategic Plan, which estimates that the school will have 35,000 students enrolled by 2016.

However, eliminating direct private lending has been met with opposition. “The people that are opposed to it [do so] because it takes choice away,” said Cooper. “The problem is, if you have an entire loan system through the federal government, and there’s not an alternative that schools are interested in it does cut down on competition.”

Republican opposition in Congress has expressed similar concerns, and there’s a fear that private lenders may have to lay off employees if SAFRA is implemented.

The Senate is scheduled to take up the legislation by the end of the month, and the two bills will have to be reconciled by a conference committee which represents both chambers. The reconciled bill must be approved by both the House and Senate before being sent to President Obama for signature.

Related Stories

More from Paisano1

Editorial Board

At the University of Missouri, real change happened — but only when loss of university revenue was threatened. Missouri student…

More In News

Heather Montoya Co-News Editor

The Center for Military Affiliated Students held its grand opening on Nov. 14. This center provides veteran and military-affiliated students…