March 25-26, 2004

 Informational Item presented by Student Regent Hur


The Montana Associated Students and The Montana Board of Regents


Senator Baucus, Senator Burns, and Congressman Rehberg:

In the last ten years, tuition for students in The Montana University System (MUS) has more than doubled due to lack of state support.  Thanks to federal financial aid, a college education remains possible for over sixty percent of Montana students.

The Higher Education Act (HEA) authorizing the major federal student aid programs expires this fall.  As you are well aware, the process of reauthorizing the HEA has already begun in Congress.

Due to limited government budgets, we understand that Congress is unlikely to drastically increase funding for higher education.  We strongly support increased funding for the federal Pell Grant program, as we recognize this as the foundation for financial aid.  However, we are fully aware that this is only one factor in helping students obtain access to higher education.  With that in mind, we ask Congress to support key provisions of the proposal put forth by the Coalition for Better Student Loans (CBSL) and its efforts to increase borrowing limits for student loans.   During a ten-year period of tuition increases, borrowing limits on federal loans have not increased, making college un-affordable to many.

The students we are having the most trouble retaining in the MUS are the middle-income, working students who don't qualify for Pell Grants.  In order to help these working middle-class students, we need to increase loan limits and loan repayment options. 

Loan limits on federal student loans have not changed since 1992, and freshman loan limits have essentially been unchanged since 1972. As a result of these limits, students are increasingly forced to take other measures to fund their education, including working longer hours, "maxing out" credit cards, and taking out other types of loans that offer less favorable terms and interest rates.

Rest assured that, as Montana's delegation leads the charge in Congress to increase funding for federal financial aid, you will have the strong backing of The Montana Associated Students, The Montana Board of Regents, and The Montana Commissioner of Higher Education.


Submitted by:  Aaron Flint, ASUM President