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Published: Wednesday, 9/26/2007

Progress on college aid

SOME families start worrying about paying for college before the first child is conceived and, given the way those costs are escalating, it's no wonder.

There has been no comfort for these beleaguered parents in most recent news about college loans, particularly kickback schemes and scandals over conflict of interest among lenders and school officials.

The Democratic-led Congress decided recently that enough was enough, and it did something about it. The interest rates on federally backed student loans to poor and middle-class students, which the Republican-led Congress boosted to 6.8 percent, gradually will be cut to 3.4 percent.

The maximum amount of Pell Grants - given to about 5.5 million of the neediest students nationwide - will start going up next year, increasing from $4,300 to $5,400 by 2012.

The bill also offers debt forgiveness for students who enter certain public-sector jobs, and increased funding for Hispanic and historically black institutions.

The more generous grants and reduced loan rates will be funded by a cut in subsidies that loan companies receive from the government for lending to students. Despite GOP opposition and an earlier threat of a veto, President Bush has indicated he will sign the measure.

It doesn't take a math major to know that Congress deserves a good grade for this effort, one that will be appreciated by working families.

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