Saturday, March 27, 2010

Day 86

Dear Mr. President,

Thank you for the student loan reform passed by congress this week. This legislation will directly affect me and my ability to pay for my education, and, even more importantly, will ensure that future generations do not face the same difficulties I have in paying for school. I appreciate that you were willing to take on the powerful bank lobbies who opposed this, and in doing so have demonstrated to the American people the value their government places on higher education.

How we spend our money says a lot about what we value. As a student, one who'd been raised to achieve as much as I could and instilled with the belief that a college education was something I needed to succeed in life, I was prevented from completing this education because of my financial circumstances. It isn't that my family is poor, in fact we were comfortably middle class. The current financial aid system is largely base on financial need, and until I turned 24, that meant taking my parents' income into consideration. I was unable to pay for my education myself, my mother struggled with debt, and my father was unwilling to contribute to my education. When I came to this realization, I had to wonder if my parents, especially my father, valued my education as much as they'd claimed. If they had, why hadn't they saved for it? Why was my father unwilling to sacrifice, as so many of my classmates parents did, some degree of luxury for the betterment of his children? Why were they unwilling to back their words with tangible support?

I think the federal financial aid system needs to be re-examined in many ways. A student's eligibility for financial aid should not hinge so completely upon their parents finances and willingness to contribute. Even as a 22-year-old living across the country from my family, supporting myself entirely on a near-minimum wage job, I was ineligible for need-based financial aid because of the incomes of my parents. By this point in my life, I would not even want to depend upon their financial support, yet it is assumed by the FAFSA that I would necessarily do so. How is that fair? I'm not saying I wanted my education given to me, I'm more than willing to work for it, but easing the burden on students from middle class families, like myself, would go a long way toward demonstrating how much this country values higher education for all. For families that don't qualify for need-based aid, could there be an increase in merit-based federal grants? Or even a system through which students could gain designation as financially independent without having to marry, have children of their own, or be legally emancipated as high schoolers? You say that you want to increase the number of college graduates; I think that an overhaul of the way a student's aid eligibility is calculated must be considered if your goal is ever to be reached.

Thank you again for your work reforming the student loan system. When I do finally graduate, Mr. President, it will be in no small part due to the assistance of my government, and it makes me proud to live in a country that so tangibly demonstrates its commitment to education.

Respectfully yours,


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