Senator Baucus, Senator Burns, and Congressman Rehberg:

In Montana, education really is the key to improving and growing our economy. Yet a college education remains elusive for many Montanans. Without financial aid, a post-secondary education might be impossible for many of our best and brightest students. This is why we are urging you to support legislation for federal financial aid and, in particular, to support increases for Pell Grants and federal student loan limits.

As is the case in most states, the cost of education at two and four-year public schools is rising. Many students not just those with the greatest financial need, are struggling to pay for college. As you are well aware, it's now time for Congress to renew the Higher Education Act, which includes the various Title IV programs. This is an ideal time for you to help Montana students by supporting those key programs that do the most to improve access in our state.

We fully understand that resources to fund higher education are scarce and it's unlikely that there will be drastic increases in any area. However, we hope that you will nonetheless support proposals to increase Pell and federal student loan limits. These requests also mirror the provisions put forth by the Coalition for Better Student Loans (CBSL). We consider Pell Grants to be the foundation of financial aid. The decision by a Montana student to attend school often hinges upon the receipt of a Pell Grant. With loan limits remaining essentially unchanged since 1972, students are forced to turn to alternative methods of paying for college everything from high interest rate credit cards to working multiple jobs. Obviously, these are undesirable options that prevent many students from completing their educations.

Rest assured that as Montana's delegation leads the charge in Congress to increase funding for federal financial aid, you will have the strong support and backing of the Montana Associated Students, the Montana Board of Regents, and the Montana Commissioner of Higher Education. More importantly, you will be helping a broad section of Montanans fulfill their dreams of obtaining a college education.