Higher education has never been more important, or more expensive. We need to expand Pell Grants, which are critical to local students. For example, about a third of students at San Antonio College and 45% of students at UTSA receive Pell Grants. Some in the House have called to freeze Pell Grants for the next ten years and cut off $90 billion in mandatory federal funds to the program.  I will continue opposing these efforts to cut Pell Grants


We should make my American Opportunity Tax Credit – worth up to $2500 annually for tuition, fees, and educational expenses – permanent and improve it to make it work better with Pell Grants and also make it easier to claim.  I have a bill that would accomplish all these things, and 145 of my colleagues have joined me to sponsor it.


President Obama took important steps to ensure students can complete and submit their Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) earlier.  In 2008, a led a successful effort that resulted in the Department of Education gaining the option of moving up the FAFSA timeline and this year filed a bill that would have required this change—I was glad to see President Obama use his authority to make this important policy change quickly.  But despite this welcome improvement, FAFSA is still too complicated.   We need to make the form easier to complete so you don’t need to be an accountant to understand it.  And for after students leave school, we should also consider making it easier to tie debt payments to a student’s income.


Of course, the cost of college rarely ends on graduation day and students emerge not only with a diploma and a brighter future, but all too often, also with a mountain of debt. Student borrowers should be able to refinance their loans, much as homeowners can refinance their mortgages.  My office can be a resource of information on how to apply for student financial aid. In addition, here are links to other web sites that might offer assistance:

Financial Aid for Students

The basics: getting started


·  Start gathering information early.
·  Free information is readily available from:
High school counselors
College and career school financial aid offices (where you plan to attend)
Local and college libraries
Student Aid on the Web (U.S. Department of Education)
Other Internet sites (search terms student financial aid OR assistance)
·  Ask questions of counselors: you may have exceptional circumstances that affect your eligibility.
·  Keep copies of all forms and correspondence: you must reapply for aid each year.
·  Parents of students: save money long before your child attends college.
FinAid: for Parents
College Savings Plan Network (state "Section 529" plans)
Tax incentives for higher education expenses
·  Good overviews:
Cash for College
FinAid: The Smart Student Guide to Financial Aid
Mapping Your Future
Paying for College
·  Beware of scholarship scams -- don't pay for free information!
Department of Education
Federal Trade Commission


Student aid and where it comes from


Basic assistance categories:

  • Financial need-based
    Remember that students and their parents are responsible for paying what they can-- financial aid is a supplement, not a substitute, for family resources.
  • Non need-based
    Factors include academic excellence, ethnic background, or organization membership. Corporations may also offer assistance to employees and children.

Federal Student Aid:

  • Provides nearly 70% of student aid under Loans, Grants and Work/study programs.
  • Available to all need-based applicants; some loans and competitive scholarships for non need-based.
  • Free information from the U.S. Department of Education:
  • Loans, the most common federal aid, must be repaid when you graduate or leave college.
  • Scholarships/grants are mostly need-based and require no repayment:
  • Other grants, scholarships, and fellowships, mostly graduate level: search the Catalog of Federal Domestic Assistance (CFDA) by Beneficiary, such as "Student or Trainee" or "Graduate Student".
  • "Congressional" scholarships:
    • Named for Member of Congress or other prominent individual (such as Byrd Honors Scholarships, Fulbright fellowships)
    • Merit-based and highly competitive
    • Members of Congress do not play a role in selecting recipients
  • Work study programs allow you to earn money while in school:
  • For questions not covered by the Department of Education website, call the Federal Student Aid Information Center at 1-800-433-3243.

States offer residents a variety of scholarships, loans, and tuition exemptions.

Colleges and universities provide some 20% of aid, most need-based. Check university websites and the institution's financial aid office when you apply for admission.

Private foundations, corporations, and organizations offer scholarships or grants:
College Board Scholarship Search
Grants for Individuals


Targeted aid for special groups



Interested in public service?
Federal assistance programs seek to encourage people to work in geographic areas or professions where there's a particular need (such as doctors in underserved areas); encourage underrepresented groups to enter a particular profession; and provide aid in exchange for services provided (such as military service).

Aid for private K-12 education: No direct federal assistance, check with schools themselves:


Repaying your loans



After college, the federal government has ways to help you repay your loans.