RAA Press

RAA Applauds Congressional Measure Raising Student Loans Caps for Flight Education and Training Programs

Washington, DC, February 1, 2024. Media contact: 

Last night, the House Education and Workforce Committee reported a bill including a provision in H.R. 6951, the College Cost Reduction Act, that will increase student loan limits for accredited flight education and training programs. On behalf of the Regional Airline Association, RAA CEO Faye Malarkey Black issued the following statement: 

“We applaud Congresswoman Chavez DeRemer (R-OR) and House Education and Workforce Committee Chairwoman Foxx (R-NC) for their leadership on pilot career access improvement. There has never been a better time to become a commercial airline pilot, nor a time when our country was in greater need of more pilots. Wages and opportunities are soaring, but systemic barriers and inequitable training access bar access to transformational pilot careers. By improving federal resources for financing pilot training, Congress will reduce the enormous career access inequity facing aspiring pilots without wealth. 

Flight training costs an average of $80,000 and when combined with a bachelor’s degree can present students with $200,000 or more in costs. These expenses exceed the ceilings of today’s Federal student loans by an average of $80,000, despite extremely high returns on every training dollar. Unfortunately, access to flight education often hinges on candidates’ personal wealth or ability to secure private financing. While airlines provide considerable financial support aimed at helping to close this gap, thousands of otherwise qualified pilot candidates are barred from the career path each year because they lack the money to afford or the credit scores to obtain financing for their education. 

It should not be this way. Pilot undergraduate programs are unique in that they function like professional licensure programs and should be treated as such. However, unlike training for other prestige careers like medicine or law, accredited pilot education programs exist at the undergraduate level and cannot access graduate aid limits to finance these higher costs. The provision under consideration addresses this inequity by allowing students of certified and accredited undergraduate flight education programs to access the higher loan amounts typically available to graduate professional programs, enabling far more people from diverse financial backgrounds to pursue pilot careers.

This legislation will open doors for talented, hardworking young people from all backgrounds, increase diversity among professional pilots, and help boost the supply of pilots, who are in great demand. Today our country is facing a vast pilot shortage so severe that hundreds of regional jets have been parked, and three-quarters of the nation’s airports have lost, on average, one in four flights. Small airports and rural communities have faced the greatest harm; 37 smaller airports lost half their flights and 12 airports lost commercial air service altogether.”

The provisions in this bill follow the bicameral, bipartisan introduction of the Flight Education Access Act last year. The legislation is led by Senators Baldwin (D-WI) and Sullivan (R-AK) in the Senate and Representatives Allred (D-TX), Chavez DeRemer (R-OR), and Cohen (D-TN) in the House of Representatives. The Flight Education Access Act is also cosponsored by House Education and Workforce Members DeSaulnier (D-CA) and Manning (D-NC).

A letter from the RAA and numerous aviation stakeholders, thanking House Education and Workforce Chairwoman Foxx and Congresswoman Chavez DeRemer for leading on the pilot career path provisions, can be found here.

The Regional Airline Association (RAA) provides a unified voice of advocacy for North American regional airlines aimed at promoting a safe, reliable and strong regional airline industry. RAA serves as an important support network connecting regional airlines and industry business partners. In the United States, regional airlines operate 35% of scheduled passenger flights and provide the only source of scheduled air service to 64% of the nation’s airports.

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