I applaud the U.S. House of Representatives' decision today to finally honor our promise to increase the maximum value of the Pell Grant scholarship. These scholarships are crucial in helping our neediest students realize their dreams of a college education, and this appropriation is an important first step after four years of flat funding.

In the midst of soaring tuition, it is shameful that the previous Republican leadership failed to make sure Pell Grant maximums kept up with inflation and rising costs. We now have an opportunity to remedy this discrepancy.

Already, the Democrats have shown that affordable higher education will be a priority this session by cutting interest rates on need-based student loans. This move, which will save the average borrower $4,400 over the life of the loan, is in stark contrast to the $12 billion the Republicans slashed from student loan programs last session.

In 2003, more than 400,000 college-qualified low-income students did not enroll in a four-year college, and 170,000 did not enroll in any college at all, because of financial barriers, according to the Advisory Committee on Student Financial Assistance. Raising the Pell Grant maximum is good first step toward providing more Americans with the opportunity to go to college. But we must do better. As Chairman of the Subcommittee on Higher Education, I am committed to addressing the gaps in the access and affordability that still remain