THE BRONX - New legislation that will increase scholarship amounts and lower interest rates for college students could make education more affordable for Bronx families.

Tuition continues to increase at colleges throughout the area. School officials at Mercy College say that many of their students come from low- and middle-income families and rely on financial aid for the $13,000 tuition.

Help is on the way, thanks to Pell Grants. Due to the new legislation, the maximum Pell Grant scholarship will increase to $5,400 by 2012.

The legislation will also cut interest rates in half on need-based student loans from 6.8 percent to 3.4 percent over the next four years.

?Next year it goes from 6.8 to 6,? Joseph Trentacoste, who works with student financial services, says. ?Not a lot, but almost a whole percentage point and it does add up over time.?

College graduates who go into vital public service jobs may see loan forgiveness after 10 years of loan payment. Undergraduates who teach in the nation?s public schools could also get tuition assistance.

The legislation will also prevent students from facing unmanageable federal student debt. Borrowers with economic hardship could have their loans forgiven after 25 years.

Trentacoste says that the legislation is a step in the right direction. He says it may help people who are on the fence about pursuing a college education make a decision because more financial aid will be available for them.