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A college degree is the ticket to the American Dream. Today, more and more jobs require education beyond high school. Indeed, the more you learn, the more you earn, since a college graduate earns $1.5 million more over his or her lifetime than an individual with only a high school diploma. Despite the compelling case for college, 250,000 college-ready high school seniors did not pursue higher education last year because they could not afford it. That is a disappointing number and we must do better.

Congress can make college more accessible to low and middle-income students by authorizing the Higher Education Act this year and strengthening the federal student loan program. Today, more than 60 percent of all students rely on federal student loans to complete their bachelor's degrees. When Congress takes up higher education legislation, they should make sure that borrowers pay less to get low-interest student loans. Lawmakers should ensure that students have enough money to cover the cost of college while they are in school, and that they have flexible repayment terms to pay their loans after graduation. Most importantly, Congress should make sure that scarce dollars are targeted to those current and future students who need it most.

Time is running out for Congress to act. Next fall, millions of new students will enter college for the first time. Congress should set aside partisan politics and pass a Higher Education Bill that makes college more accessible to more students this year. Every year we delay means that some high school students forego college altogether because they do not have enough money to pay for it.

Providing access to a college education is an investment in the future. Congress, do not let them down!

Ernest J. Strada Mayor,

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