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NAACP Supports Legislative Initiatives to Make College More Affordable and Accessible to All Americans

WHEREAS, in 1997, college graduates earned 1.7 times more than Americans with only a high school diploma; and

WHEREAS, over a lifetime, an individual with a college degree will earn more than $1 million dollars than someone without a postsecondary degree; and

WHEREAS, despite the clear evidence that a college degree is a necessity for most Americans who want to get ahead, for years, college costs have risen at rates higher than inflation; and

WHEREAS, over the last 30 years, tuition at public 4-year colleges has increased by about 50%, and tuition at private 4-year colleges has increased by a whopping 110%. In 2003 the average costs were $12,841 per year for students attending public colleges and universities and $27,677 per year for students at private colleges and universities; and

WHEREAS, given the importance of a college degree and the dramatic increase In the cost of obtaining a degree, federal financial student aid is perhaps more important now than ever before; and

WHEREAS, for most students financial aid makes a college education possible, even though it in 2005 covered less than 70% of the average student's college costs; and

WHEREAS, the importance of college financial aid is especially important to racial and ethnic minority students; 74% of African American college students, 69% of Hispanic college students, and 60% of white college students were dependent on financial aid; and

WHEREAS, the typical student now graduates from college with $17,500 in total federal student loan debt; and

WHEREAS, according to the Senate Committee on Health, Education, and Labor Pensions, as many as 400,000 potential college students are forced to delay or forgo attending college due to the cost; and

WHEREAS, for the past 15 years, Congress has not done much to help address the very real need for federal college assistance; and

WHEREAS, on January 16, 2007, the full US House of Representatives passed legislation to reduce the interest rates on federal student loans by half over the next five years. Specifically, the legislation, The College Student Relief Act of 2007 (H.R. 5), would cut interest rates on need-based federal loans for undergraduate students from its current rate of 6.8% to 3.4% by the year 2011. Once fully phased in, these cuts would save typical borrowers with $13,800 in need-based federal student loan debt, $4,400 in savings over the life of the loan; and

WHEREAS, the bill is now in the Senate, where it is being considered as part of a larger bill, S. 359, which would also immediately increase the maximum Pell Grant to $5,100, make debt relief easier and a host of other initiatives which would make college more affordable; and

WHEREAS, it is estimated that half of the student-loan borrowers who would benefit from H.R. 5 and S. 359 have annual family incomes of between $26,000 and $68,000; and

WHEREAS, higher education opens the door to greater opportunities, and strengthens the country's economic well-being; nothing short of the American dream is at risk if we fail to make college more affordable.

THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED, that the NAACP strongly supports H.R. 5, S. 359, and other legislative initiatives that would help potential college students afford their higher education; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that the NAACP specifically calls on Congress to take actions to help students pay for college that will not result in the student ending his or her education with tremendous debt. This would include increasing Pell Grants and other programs that do not require repayment, as well as decreasing the amount of interest a student needs to pay on his or her loans and forgiving student loans in exchange for community, civic and social service.

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