In one of her first acts as student body president, Suzanne Link, a School of Arts and Sciences senior, has opposed the Promoting Real Opportunity, Success and Prosperity through Education Reform (PROSPER) act — a piece of federal legislation that she described as “a threat to students’ ability to come to Rutgers.”
In a collaboration with other Big Ten university’s, Link drafted a letter to federal government officials and sent the statement to as many educational staffers as possible, she said.
The PROSPER act is intended to reform the Higher Education Act (HEA) of 1965 by simplifying and improving student aid, according to the Committee on Education and the Workforce. The bill summary states that it aims to pool more funding to the Federal Work-Study Program.
It will create more simple tax forms for the middle class, launch a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) mobile app and fuse the six current loans into the new Federal ONE Loan Program with one unsubsidized loan for each of the three categories — undergraduate loan, graduate loan and parent loan.
Link said the new legislation hinders student success by diminishing funding from the Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) program, eliminating Federal Supplemental Education Opportunity Grants (FSEOG) and removing the undergraduate in-school interest subsidy for student loans, which makes higher education less accessible for students.
“Any threat to students’ ability to come to Rutgers, complete their degrees or succeed once they’ve earned their Rutgers degree(s) is a battle that needs to be fought,” she said.
Her letter was addressed to Paul Ryan, speaker of the House of Representatives, Nancy Pelosi, minority leader of the House of Representatives, Steny Hoyer, minority whip of the House of Representatives and Kevin McCarthy, majority leader of the House of Representatives.
Link, along with other Big Ten university student body presidents, wrote that eliminating the undergraduate in-school subsidy for college student loans would force students to pay interest on their student loans throughout their time in college, which “would place an unreasonable burden on them.”
The presidents stated that students should focus on their education, not the compounding interest on their loans piling up and that they should not have to worry about their loans when they have yet to reap the benefits of their education, such as a stable income.
This bill would also hurt students most in need, Link said. The letter stated that the elimination of the FSEOG would detrimentally impact the most financially deprived students. While the PROSPER act would enhance Pell Grants, it would not make up for the loss of FSEOG, which annually benefits students whose income are among the lowest in the country.
The foundation of HEA was built on supporting students from low and middle-income families, according to the letter.
“Unfortunately, this legislation (PROSPER) fails to uphold that fundamental principle,” according to the letter.
The message to the House highlighted that the PROSPER act would significantly restrict federal TRIO programs, which benefit students from diverse and disadvantaged backgrounds. This, in turn, means that programs like Upward Bound and Talent Search would lose funding, according to the letter.
It stated that low-income students, especially students of color, deserve to be supported and nurtured on their road to higher education and do not need another roadblock to their success.
Lastly, the new legislation would modify the PSLF program which gives students who are interested in public service the opportunity to have their loans forgiven in exchange for service to their country. The new changes would limit the program to individuals who have previously made 120 consecutive payments, which equates to 10 years of payments.
Such significant changes to this program would hinder many former and current students’ ability to pay off their debts, according to the letter. In its closing, it was addressed that the PROSPER act would result in students losing a collective $15 billion over the next 10 years. The letter urged the House to vote against it.
Link asked that any student interested in standing with her call their Congressional representative and voice their opposition of the act.
“We as students need to work together to protect our futures and the futures of students to come,” she said.