Merkley Stresses College Affordability with UO Students and Calls for More Educational Opportunities

Eugene, OR – Oregon’s Senator Jeff Merkley met with University of Oregon students and faculty on campus today to stress the importance of education and college affordability and highlight the recent changes to student lending programs and the federal Pell Grant program. Merkley called for support of college affordability programs so that everyone who has the ability and commitment to attend college, has the opportunity.

“The cost of attending college has skyrocketed over the years.  While the recent improvements to the student loan and grant programs are important, I’m not going to rest until students can graduate without mountains of debt and every student who has the talent and inclination can receive a college education,” said Merkley.  “I’m so pleased I was able to meet with students on campus today to talk about what these changes mean for them and how we can continue to find opportunities to help young people get the college degree that will help them reach their dreams.”

The recent health care reconciliation bill made changes to the way that the federal government supports student loans. The changes will save billions of dollars by ending subsidies to banks and other third parties that make federally-guaranteed loans.  In addition, the bill will increase direct loans to students from the Department of Education.  This will allow more students to use the loan programs and free up additional funding for Pell Grants and deficit reduction.  

The changes to college aid programs will allow an additional 100 students to qualify for a Pell Grant next year at the University of Oregon.  Overall, the new law provided an additional $332 million over 10 years in federal Pell Grants and College Access Challenge Grants and increased the maximum Pell Grant award.

Senator Merkley was joined at today’s event by Associated Students of the University of Oregon (ASUO) past president Emma Kallaway and university students Isauro Saldana and Jairo Castaneda  who shared their personal stories about how important the federal Pell grants have been to making college affordable and accessible. President Richard Lariviere and Director of Student Aid, Elizabeth Bickford also attended and discussed the PathwayOregon program that helps provide additional funding for students who qualify for Pell Grants.

“I can’t stress how important higher education is to our economy. We must make sure that students from working and middle class families have the opportunity to get ahead,” Merkley told the students. “I urge you to continue fighting to make college more affordable and please, keep making your voices heard.”