Sunday, 23 June 2024

House takes on rising cost of college

WASHINGTON – On Thursday, Congressman Mike Thompson (D-CA) voted for legislation to address the skyrocketing cost of a college education and remove other obstacles that make it harder for qualified students to go to college.

By an overwhelming bipartisan vote of 354 to 58, the House approved the College Opportunity and Affordability Act (HR 4137), which would reform the nation’s higher education programs to better work in the interests of students and families.

This is the second piece of major legislation in the 110th Congress that makes college more affordable and accessible.

Last year, Congress enacted into law a $20 billion increase in college financial aid over the next five years, the largest increase in student aid since the G.I. Bill of 1944.

“A college education is necessary for a growing number of jobs in the 21st century economy. Yet affording college is nearly impossible for too many low- and even middle-income families,” said Congressman Thompson. “We must encourage colleges to keep prices reasonable so all Americans have a shot at higher education. And we also need to make more financial aid available for those who need it.”

An October 2007 report from the College Board showed that, over the previous five years, tuition and fees had increased across the board, at public and private colleges and at two-year and four-year colleges. In California, tuition and fees at a public four-year university grew by 9 percent between the 2006-07 and 2007-08 academic years.

This bill would address these rising prices by encouraging colleges to rein in price increases, ensuring that states maintain their commitments to higher education funding and providing students and families with consumer-friendly information on college pricing and the factors driving tuition increases.

The legislation also strengthens provisions previously approved by the House to avoid conflicts of interest in the student loan programs. The bill’s new provisions include requiring better consumer disclosures and protections on private student loans. Together these protections form a Bill of Rights for college consumers.

“Any student or parent who has filled out financial aid forms knows how complicated it can be to get loans or assistance for college,” added Thompson. “In addition to keeping college affordable, we also need to make paying for college much less confusing.”

In addition, the College Opportunity and Affordability Act would:

  • Streamline the federal student financial aid application process;

  • Make textbook costs more manageable for students by, among other things, helping them plan for textbook expenses in advance of each semester;

  • Allow students to receive year-round Pell Grant scholarships;

  • Strengthen college readiness and support programs for minority and low-income students;

  • Increase college aid and support programs for veterans and military families;

  • Improve safety on college campuses and help schools recover and rebuild after a disaster;

  • Ensure equal college opportunities and fair learning environments for students with disabilities; and

  • Strengthen our nation’s workforce and economic competitiveness by boosting science, technology, and foreign language educational opportunities.

HR 4137 is a comprehensive reauthorization of the Higher Education Act, the primary federal law aimed at expanding college access for low- and middle-income students. The bill is supported by a broad coalition of students, colleges and universities, consumer rights advocacy groups, minority organizations, and more.


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