WASHINGTON (7/26/11)--In the face of heated debt-ceiling and budget negotiations with Washington, nearly 200 credit unions have partnered with Credit Union Student Choice, collectively pledging $1 billion to higher education financing solutions. This historic pledge comes at a critically important time for higher education, according to Jon Jeffreys, Credit Union Student Choice president. While students prepare for fall semester classes and finalize their funding needs, Congress is engaged in negotiations over the Federal budget--an impasse that could significantly impact the flow of educational funds, such as vital Pell Grants, to students, colleges and universities. "Our credit union partners have stated loud and clear that they support students and families, and in turn, the colleges and universities that are the bedrock of many communities," said Jeffreys. "While it's imperative that students first maximize scholarships, grants, and Federal Stafford loans, this pledge reaffirms our credit union partners' commitment to providing fair-value private student lending solutions." With education costs continuing to rise, millions of students rely on loans to pay for college. While federal student loans provide the best financing option, many students also rely on private student loans to fill funding gaps. Credit unions partnered with student choice provide school]certified private education loans to students in need of additional financing options, while also providing information to help families make responsible decisions on the best ways to pay for college. While the pledge refers mainly to the private student lending solution, Jeffreys adds that many credit unions also can serve as a resource for colleges and universities that may need financial contingency plans in case of any disruption of funds is caused by ongoing Federal budget negotiations. "Colleges and universities are keeping a close eye on budget negotiations, as that could potentially have a direct impact on Federal funding that is vital for higher education programs," said Jeffreys. "While some believe the likelihood of a major disruption is low, it's important to note that credit unions stand ready to assist with contingency plans. The credit union commitment to America's families and their education aspirations remains unchanged regardless of what happens in Washington, D.C."