Roll Call: Senate Undoes Cuts in Student Aid

On September 10, by a vote of 51 to 44, the Senate undid one of the few funding reductions planned for fiscal 2004 by restoring money that would have been cut by the Bush Administration from the student aid program, including Pell grants and Stafford loans. The House bill does not contain such an amendment so it probably will not survive a Senate-House conference.

Even as the government is running a deficit upward of $500 billion for fiscal 2003, senators decided to keep spending money on compassionate-sounding programs as if no one would have to pay the bills.

“Federal funding for grants and loans has not kept pace with the rise in tuition,” argued Sen. Jon Corzine (D.-N.J.), who sponsored the amendment to make it easier for students to get more money for college from the federal government.

However, federal funding is actually the reason for the outrageous price of college tuition. Thanks to readily available federal funds in the form of grants and loans, which the majority of students can easily tap into, colleges and universities have been able for decades to dramatically increase tuition every year without losing any business, while providing an education of increasingly dubious quality.

As a result of this system-originally created by the federal government-many students graduate from college with crushing debt, to the benefit of universities and banks that deal in federally subsidized loans. Moreover, schools and colleges continue to proliferate and expand despite a lack of economic rationale. They educate many students who do not need to attend college to pursue their chosen careers, and they give degrees to others who are unworthy, cheapening the value of an undergraduate degree.

Corzine’s amendment effectively takes a bad problem created by the government and makes it worse by spending more money to perpetuate and even enlarge the problem. It prevents the Department of Education from re-calibrating the formula by which a family’s contribution to a child’s college tuition is calculated.

Under the current system, the calculation begins with a family’s gross income, and that family can deduct state and local taxes actually paid in order to increase likelihood of eligibility. Under the administration’s proposed new system, residents of states and localities would be able to deduct only the amounts listed for their state in a chart released by the Department of Education.

“I am having a hard time understanding, as I read the newspapers and I hear that state income taxes and local income taxes are going up, why we have decided to implement this today,” Corzine said of the Bush plan. Administration officials, however point out that the law requires an annual update of the tax tables used for federal education loan purposes and that the tables have not been updated in nine years.

A “yes” vote was a vote to prevent the administration’s planned funding cuts for federal student aid by updating old tax tables. A “no” vote was a vote against the amendment.

FOR THE AMENDMENT: 51 AGAINST THE AMENDMENT: 44
REPUBLICANS FOR (6):
Chafee
Collins
Hagel
Murkowski
Snowe
Voinovich

DEMOCRATS FOR (44):
Akaka
Baucus
Bayh
Biden
Bingaman
Boxer
Breaux
Byrd
Cantwell
Carper
Clinton
Conrad
Corzine
Daschle
Dayton
Dodd
Dorgan
Durbin
Feingold
Feinstein
Harkin
Hollings
Inouye
Johnson
Kennedy
Kohl
Landrieu
Lautenberg
Leahy
Levin
Lincoln
Mikulski
Miller
Murray
Nelson (Fla.)
Nelson (Neb.)
Pryor
Reed (R.I.)
Reid (Nev.)
Rockefeller
Sarbanes
Schumer
Stabenow
Wyden

INDEPENDENT FOR (1):
Jeffords

REPUBLICANS AGAINST (44):
Alexander
Allard
Allen
Bennett
Bond
Brownback
Bunning
Burns
Campbell
Chambliss
Cochran
Coleman
Cornyn
Craig
Crapo
DeWine
Dole
Domenici
Ensign
Enzi
Fitzgerald
Frist
Graham (S.C.)
Grassley
Gregg
Hatch
Hutchison
Inhofe
Kyl
Lott
Lugar
McCain
McConnell
Nickles
Roberts
Santorum
Sessions
Shelby
Specter
Stevens
Sununu
Talent
Thomas
Warner

DEMOCRATS AGAINST (0)

NOT VOTING: 5

REPUBLICANS (1): DEMOCRATS (4):
Smith Edwards
Graham (Fla.)
Kerry
Lieberman


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