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Bipartisan Ideas to Strengthen Higher Education

As summer comes to a close and college-goers begin preparing for the fall semester, students and families face tough challenges fulfilling the dream of a higher education that will prepare them to succeed in the workforce:

  • College costs continue to rise. Over the past decade, the average costs at four-year public and private nonprofit institutions increased by 42 percent and 24 percent, respectively.
     
  • National student loan debt has eclipsed the $1 trillion mark. The average borrower accumulates $27,300 in student loan debt.
     
  • The confusing maze of federal student aid and repayment programs discourages students from pursuing a degree or credential.

At a recent hearing, Purdue University President and former Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels issued a call to action:

The United States is often praised for having the best higher education system in the world. I agree, and believe this [committee’s] leadership is central to our ongoing national success. But if we are to maintain our current advantage, we will need to make changes, starting now. It’s an opportunity not to be missed.

Recognizing the need for commonsense reforms to strengthen higher education, members on both sides of the political divide are putting forward ideas to simplify and improve the student aid process and empower students and families to make informed decisions:

  • Simplifying the Application for Student Aid Act (H.R. 3177). Led by Reps. Joe Heck (R-NV), Phil Roe (R-TN), Jared Polis (D-CO), and Mark Pocan (D-WI), the legislation will reform the federal student aid process to help students make timely financial decisions about their education.
     
  • Strengthening Transparency in Higher Education Act (H.R. 3178). Led by Higher Education and Workforce Training Subcommittee Chairwoman Virginia Foxx (R-NC), and Reps. Luke Messer (R-IN) and Gregorio Sablan (D-MP), the legislation will help students gain access to the facts they need to make an informed decision about where to pursue their education.
     
  • Empowering Students through Enhanced Financial Counseling Act (H.R. 3179). Led by Reps. Brett Guthrie (R-KY), Rick Allen (R-GA), and Suzanne Bonamici (D-OR), the legislation will promote financial literacy through enhanced counseling for all recipients of federal financial aid.
     
  • Flexible Pell Grant for 21st Century Students Act (H.R. 3180). Led by Reps. Elise Stefanik (R-NY) and Carlos Curbelo (R-FL) and Higher Education and Workforce Training Subcommittee Ranking Member Rubén Hinojosa (D-TX), the legislation will provide flexibility to the Pell Grant program to help low-income students complete their studies more quickly and at a lower cost.

The American people need solutions that will help more individuals affordably access and complete higher education and compete in the workforce. These ideas are a good step in the right direction and will be an important part of a larger effort to reauthorize the Higher Education Act.

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