Representative Nita Lowey

Representing the 17th District of New York

Lowey Leads Fight to Make College More Affordable for Lower Hudson Valley Students

June 12, 2017
Press Release

Since 2012, Cost of Education at Public Four-Year Colleges has Risen 9%, 11% at Public Two-Year Colleges

10,700 Students at Mercy College and Rockland and Westchester Community Colleges Receive More Than $42 Million in Pell Grants

Lowey Secured Year-Round Pell Grant Funding in FY17 Omnibus, Providing 1 Million Students with an Average Additional $1,650

Valhalla, NY – Congresswoman Nita M. Lowey (D-Rockland/Westchester), Ranking Member of the House Appropriations Committee, was joined today by college students and administrators for a roundtable discussion on increasing federal investments in college affordability to ensure all Americans, regardless of income, have access to higher education. In May, Congresswoman Lowey helped to negotiate thee reinstatement of year-round Pell Grants, which will cover a third semester of school and allow students to earn their degrees faster with less debt.

“A college degree should be a down payment on a successful future, not a financial burden that forces America’s students to the brink of bankruptcy,” said Lowey. “With millions of students owing trillions in debt, it’s clear the costs of higher education have gotten out of control. As Ranking Member of the House Appropriations Committee, I was proud to help negotiate the reinstatement of year-round Pell Grants, helping students across the country graduate sooner and take on less debt. The federal government must continue to do its part to help all Americans access and afford a higher education, without jeopardizing the future they’ve worked so hard to achieve.“

Since, 2012, the cost of a four-year education at a public university has risen 9%, and costs have jumped 11% at public two-year colleges. A total of 44.2 million Americans are saddled with $1.44 trillion in student loan debt, and according to the Consumer Federation of America, the average amount owed by a student loan borrower has risen 17 percent since 2012 to $30,650. In 2016, there were more than one million defaults on student loans.

Previously, low-income full-time students were eligible for Pell Grants to help offset the costs of tuition for two semesters per year. The federal investments in the Fiscal Year 2017 Omnibus allowed approximately one million students to receive an average of $1,650 in additional grants to cover a third semester of school. This will help students to obtain their degrees and enter the workforce more quickly, resulting in less accumulation of debt. 

For the 2015-2016 school year, 10,752 students at Westchester Community College, Rockland Community College, and Mercy College received more than $42 million in Pell Grants to help them manage the rising costs of higher education.

Despite the skyrocketing costs of higher education, the Trump Administration’s recently released Fiscal Year 2018 budget would make paying for school even more difficult for working New Yorkers. The President’s proposal would prevent inflationary increases for Pell Grants, cut federal work study in half, and eliminate the Child Care Access Means Parents in School (CCAMPIS) initiative, which serves Rockland Community College and provides child care for low-income parents taking college courses, also helping them to enter the workforce faster with less debt.

“Pell Grants provide essential financial support for thousands of Westchester Community College students. This support helps students finish college and achieve their dreams.  Our graduates leave the college well prepared for 21st century jobs and transfer to four-year universities,” said Dr. Belinda Miles, President of Westchester Community College. “Year-Round Pell Grants help students take classes during the summer and stay on track to complete their degrees.  Research has shown that community college students who enroll continuously have higher college completion rates.”

"Mercy fully supports giving students and their families access to the opportunities to provide them with the financial means to contribute to the next generation of innovations, workforce contributions and a ladder to the middle class,” said Dr. José Herrera, Provost and Vice President of Academic Affairs at Mercy College. “This is an investment that will pay dividends and will help all of us profit from their intellectual capital."

"CCAMPIS has allowed for a two generation approach to education here in Rockland County,” said Andrea Bogin, Director of the Campus Fun and Learning Center at Rockland Community College. “ This child care tuition subsidy has allowed low-income student-parents the opportunity to create a positive cycle of change for themselves and their families, while having piece of mind knowing their children are receiving a high-quality early childhood education.  The elimination of this initiative would have devastating effects on educational future of student-parents and children in the Rockland County community."

As a grandmother of eight and a former PTA president, Congresswoman Lowey has spent her career fighting to ensure that all Americans have access to quality, affordable education. As Ranking Member of the powerful House Appropriations Committee, she has worked to secure critical investments that will help prepare students to succeed in a 21st century economy.