Congress is poised to consider a budget bill that will brutally cut federal safety-net programs for people who need and deserve assistance. The bill would cut food stamps, child support, foster care and health care for the poor, such as the victims of Hurricane Katrina. And the reason for these cuts is to enable Republican leadership to also cut taxes, mostly for the wealthiest Americans, by $70 billion. I strongly oppose these cuts and will fight this bill.

One cut that I am particularly outraged by, which would be very harmful to students at UCSB and other colleges, is the proposal to slash $14.3 billion from Student Assistance. Specifically, the bill would increase fees that students pay when they receive various student loans. Students with Direct Loans would see their fees doubled. Students consolidating their loans would have to pay new origination fees. And the bill would take $1.5 billion from students with Federal Family Education Loans in the form of a new mandatory insurance fee. These changes mean an average student could end up owing another $6,000 for his or her education.

Currently, 400,000 Americans are being denied a chance to attend college because they cannot afford it. And college costs are increasing far faster than the rate of inflation. Students and their parents are already struggling to keep up with soaring tuition, high textbook prices and a variety of other demands.

It is ridiculous – indeed immoral – for Congress to add to those burdens. In our fast-paced world, going to college is essential to success. A college degree is a huge advantage in achieving the American dream. I strongly believe that the federal government should be making it easier for students to get a college education, not harder.

Nexus readers can be assured that I will be doing everything I can to oppose this bill and attacks on higher education, health care and social services. I refuse to accept the logic that we can no longer afford to help students pay for their education even though we can spend billions on tax cuts for the wealthy. Students deserve better and Congress needs to deliver.

Lois Capps is the 35th district representative.