Greg Porter Medical Student University of Missouri - Kansas City
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Thank you. It is great to be here today, but I'm a little embarrassed to admit that I should be in class right now. My professor was okay with my being here though, since the name of the class is, after all. Public Speaking 101.
As previously mentioned, my name is Greg Porter, and I have been asked to speak today about possible reforms to the Higher Education Act, and how students, the ones most effected by this piece of legislation, are impacted by the constantly rising cost of attending our nation's colleges and universities.
To help you better understand the perspective from which I speak, I would like to tell you a little bit about my collegiate background. I am currently a second year medical student in the six-year medical program at the University of Missouri-Kansas City where I receive a great deal of financial assistance from private, state, and federal aid programs. Some of the types of aid I receive are, the Federal Pell Grant, the Federal Work Study, and the maximum limit of Federal Stafford Loans available to me. Without Federal Aid programs such as these. I know that I would not be able to afford the pursuit of my dream, which is to become a pediatrician. But until that day. I'll have to settle for being a work-study in the UMKC Financial Aid and Scholarships Office. Now that you somewhat understand my experiences with the subject of financial aid, would like to talk to you about the areas of higher education reform, that I feel student's are most concerned with.
The first of which is a simple, yet seemingly unanswered question, "How do I get Financial Aid." To my amazement, there is not a day that goes by in the Financial Aid Office for which I am asked that very question. To me this makes it apparent that we as a higher education community, must take greater strides toward the Department of Education's goal of enhancing the effort to prepare youth from all backgrounds, especially those of low-income and minority status, for college. Not only is it our responsibility to make sure they are aware of the endless opportunities ahead, but also how they can attain these life-changing opportunities with the help of federal aid programs. For this very purpose, I feel an increase of Higher Education Act monies should be used in the effort to educate, educate high school students on the types of financial aid available to them, and how to get it We can do this by making sure that high school seniors know about the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, and by giving their schools more resources to make certain that no child is left behind. By taking this message to schools, we ensure students that education, and only education; can improve their opportunity to live a better and more productive life than that of the generations before them.
We can also help students who need it by increasing funding for valuable programs, like Federal Work-Study and Americorps. Programs such as Americorps, allow the student, to take a vested interest in his or her education, while also giving back to the community through service. Implementation of more programs like this would be helping our nation's future out in more ways than one. By giving them a sense of civic engagement through their work, while also providing for their college education. The Federal Work-Study Program also plays a vital role in helping many students through college by providing them with not only monetary benefits, but with benefits that far outweigh money. These intangibles that I speak of are the benefits of work experience and friendship. The Federal Work-study program allows for students to gain work experience that will prepare them for life after they complete their higher education. And through my own personal experiences, I have found that through work-study, students have the opportunity to form relationships with their co-workers who can serve as a support group to encourage them while they strive to attain a higher level of education. I know within my office there are several people who are willing to assist me in any endeavor or challenge that I might face throughout my academic career, (and actually some of them are here today) It is for these reasons; I feel that programs that actively involve students in the financing of their own education pay the biggest dividends. The final and probably most glaring issue facing higher education students today is the steep inflation of college tuition that has occurred over the last several years, a problem that leaves students asking the question, "How can I get more money?" Over the last ten years, public school tuition at four-year institutions has risen forty percent while private school tuition has risen more than thirty-three percent according to a statement released by the Chairman of the House Education and Workforce Committee. In response to the rising tuition cost and short falls in higher education. President Bush in his fiscal year '04 Budget has proposed an increase of $1.9 billion to take the Federal Pell Grant program to an all-time high total of $12.7 billion. President Bush has also proposed for the fiscal year '04 an expansion of overall student aid for postsecondary education to more than $62 billion, a 5 percent increase, over his fiscal year '03 requests.
This however, as the President has said on many occasions, "is just a good start." And indeed it is a good start, but there are many changes that need to come from each and every individual higher education institution to stop the rate of inflation at our nation's universities. Just last year, the University of Missouri system, had an eight percent increase in tuition, and again this year there has been a proposed increase of three point two percent. And how do school's propose that we the student's pay for it, by taking out more student loans. As students, this is not an option; we feel that we are being taken advantage of because we are paying a higher tuition, and yet we get a decrease in services. I don't know of any other business or program that could survive off of this business technique. Increasing the amount that a student can borrow is also not an option because we cannot afford to drive professional students away from the areas in which they are most needed. As in my case, I could not think of going back to my hometown of Knob Noster to practice medicine, because I would never be able to pay off the loan debt I've incurred from getting my degree, and this is the situation that we find many of our newly graduated physician, nurses, and educators facing.
With the times of our world and nation changing, it is ever apparent that the decisions that our government leaders will make, drastically effect the direction our nation will take. With this in mind, it is the duty of everyone in this room to give our elected officials the information they need to ensure our nation's protection, and the only way to truly protect our nation is to provide all the nation's youth the opportunity to advance in their education. By making education a priority and controlling tuition costs at post-secondary institutions around the nation. Thank you for your time.