With ever-rising tuition, and student loan debt now surpassing consumer credit card debt, the cost of college education is creating more barriers for potential degree earners. In light of this, President Obama has made education costs a key focus, and now Congress appears to be making higher education a priority as well.
Members of both the House and Senate are proposing new measures to include in a reauthorization of the Higher Education Act—the major law that governs federal student aid, and a range of related matters. First signed into law by President Johnson in 1965, the law increased federal support for universities and created scholarships and low-interest student loans. Since then, the Act has been reauthorized 9 times, growing and evolving over the years.
Congress’s latest proposals include increasing accountability for universities, greater transparency in terms of student loans, and improving access to higher education overall. There is, however, significant disagreement in regard to what specific measures to include.
Here’s what’s happening:
Senate Democrats Vie for More Student Aid
Last month, Senate Democrats introduced a lengthy proposal focusing on expanding student-aid eligibility, adding restrictions on federal aid given to for-profit colleges, improving access to student loan consumer information, and easing loan repayment burdens for many borrowers. While there is strong support for these measures in the Senate, analysts think they have little hope of passing in the House.
[Chronicle of Higher Education]
House Favors College System Changes and More Loan Counseling
The House education committee recently advanced three separate bills with alternative ways to manage the cost of higher education. This includes bills for increasing federal support for competency-based education by removing some regulatory barriers, streamlining cost information and other data colleges provide prospective students, and enhancing and increasing the amount of loan counseling for students receiving federal financial aid. House Republicans shot down other proposed measures, including a proposal for student loan refinancing.
[Inside Higher Ed]
Separate Bill Aims to Streamline Access to Federal Aid
Another bipartisan bill proposes to streamline the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) making it easier for students to apply for federal aid. The legislation would reduce the current, 108 question form to just two questions that could fit on a postcard. While the proposal may seem extreme, simplifying the form is widely supported and seen as way to reduce bureaucracy and make it easier for lower-income students to access federal aid, and higher education.
[Chronical of Higher Education]
While there is disagreement on how it should happen, there is wide consensus that the cost of college education and the ballooning amount of student debt need to be controlled. While it’s uncertain if the Higher Education Act will be reauthorized by the end of the year, it seems like a good sign that both houses of Congress are making this a priority.
Of all these proposals, what do you think are the best solutions?