Community college students look to be the biggest winners if President Bush signs a bill that aims to help families deal with the rising cost of higher education. The federal bill, the College Cost Reduction and Access Act of 2007, would come at no new cost for taxpayers and cuts student loan interest rates. It also boosts the Pell Grant scholarship, which awards a maximum of about $4,000 per year that doesn’t have to be repaid by students who qualify. Local college officials say they’re thrilled the legislation calls for an end to “tuition sensitivity” in determining Pell Grants for community college students. Because community college tuition is cheaper than most colleges and universities, students would be given lower Pell Grant amounts. “So if you had two students – one attending Pasadena City College and one a Cal State – with the same eligibility, the PCC student would get less because the fees are lower,” said Kim Miles, financial aid director for PCC. “So eliminating tuition sensitivity would make a big difference.” Some students could see a boost of nearly $500 in their Pell Grants in the 2008-09 school year. Susan Jones, financial aid director for Mt. San Antonio College, said another benefit of the legislation is an increase in students’ income protection allowance. “By increasing that, it protects more of the household income and thereby reduces the family contribution,” Jones said. “So what we’re going to be seeing is a greater number of students eligible for financial aid,” Jones said. “I always tell students that just because they aren’t eligible for one year, don’t think you won’t ever be.” College officials say they’re excited about the possible changes but are also remaining cautious about it. “A few years ago, Congress appropriated loans for teachers, a certain amount of (debt) forgiveness,” Miles said. “But they never appropriated the funds to cover it – and we don’t want to get too excited because it could happen again.” The legislation was enrolled Sept. 18 in Washington D.C., which means the president has 10 days to sign it or it will automatically become law, said Rachel Racusen, spokeswoman for Rep. George Miller, who authored the bill and is chairman of the Education and Labor Committee. “The College Cost Reduction and Access Act would not be on its way to President Bush’s desk if it were not for college students,” Miller said during last week’s enrollment ceremony. “When their generation is leading our country, I think it’s safe to say we will be in good hands.” [email protected] (562) 698-0955, Ext. 3051160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! The legislation, H.R. 2669, also aims to make loan payments more manageable, give assistance to excellent undergraduates who agree to teach high-need subjects in high-need schools, and offer loan forgiveness to graduates who go into public service professions such as military officers, nurses, early childhood educators and librarians. It would boost college financial aid by about $20 billion over the next five years, paying for itself by reducing federal subsidies paid to lenders in the college loan industry, congressional officials said. “We’re thrilled this is moving to the president, and I hope he signs it into law,” said Henry Gee, vice president of student and academic services for Rio Hondo College in Whittier. “When you’re struggling to go to school, every dollar counts,” Gee added. “Anytime you can provide more financial aid and reduce the cost of college – that’s a great thing.” Under this bill, Pell Grants will increase by $1,090 over the next five years, reaching about $5,400 by 2012, officials said.