On Monday, October 28, Chairman Robert C. Scott of Virginia’s 3rd Congressional District and Congresswoman Jahana Hayes of Connecticut’s 5th District hosted a press call with collegiate media reporters to discuss the College Affordability Act.
The College Affordability Act, as a whole, aims to lower the cost of higher education for all Americans, improve education, especially in state universities and provide opportunity to a far wider range of individuals to receive a degree. The bill has the unanimous support of the Democrats, and on Tuesday, October 29, the bill was brought to the house floor. The vote has not yet been announced.
During the press call on Monday evening, Chairman Scott explained the importance of the bill and the motives for lowering costs and expanding accessibility. “This bill will improve the lives of people across the country,” Scott said as he defended the necessity for such a bill. He explained that with the peak in college tuition rates across the nation, a degree has become out of reach for a large population in the United States, and the value of a higher education is regrettably being questioned.
Scott focuses on the importance of a degree, as it provides financial stability for individuals. Statistics have shown the immense increase in one’s salary when they have earned a college degree. Therefore, the College Affordability Act aims to allow for an affordable degree that would raise salaries without simultaneously burdening student loan debt. The bill would force states to reinvest in education in order to create federal-state partnerships that would provide free tuition in order to keep low-income and middle-class families within access of a degree.
A proposal within the bill would hold states accountable for actions that go against the benefits of its students. “The College Affordability Act blocks access to taxpayer funding for schools that cause a large share of the students’ loan defaults and schools that spend too much money on marketing and lobbying, while spending too little on educating the students,” Scott said. Taxpayer dollars plan to be withheld from institutions that do not invest in the education of their students in hopes of increasing the quality of education provided by the state.
Another goal of the bill aims to make loans cheaper, simpler to understand and easier to pay off. “We want colleges to be transparent and provide aid during the loan process,” Congresswoman Hayes said. An important aspect of the bill emphasized by Hayes included the elimination of hidden fees within loans, offering more repayment plans and allowing federal loans to recertify rather than having families complete paperwork every year.
Pell Grants are an essential part of the bill, which proposes a major increase in the value of the grants. “One of the things that we’ve done is significantly increase Pell Grants, which will help everyone going to a private school,” Scott said. Public and private higher education students would also be included in the program of federal loan forgiveness, which focuses on avoiding refutation of forgiveness.
Another goal of the bill is to provide for options and services to students, such as campus-based childcare, academic and career advising and grants to aid during financial emergences. Such services hope to open the door for more diversity among students and easier access to completing a degree.
During the press call, a portion of the time was provided for collegiate students to ask questions regarding the bill. A popular curiosity surrounding the bill is the cost for improving higher education. The bill is estimated to cost $400 billion over a 1-year period. Scott explained that other educational programs will not be cut in order to fund the College Affordability Act and the funding would be figured out among the committee. Scott mentioned the ability of Republicans to find enough funding for a $1.5 trillion tax cut and emphasized the fraction of the cost for the education bill.
“It is a matter of priorities, and the difference in the appeal of a tax cut,” Scott said.
Title IX was also mentioned during the Q&A session of the press call. Recent proposed changes to Title IX from the Secretary of the Department of Education are prohibited within the affordability act. Supporters of the bill stress the preventative measures against sexual assault across college campuses that Title IX ensures. Scott also mentioned that the proposed changes put too much blame on the victim and students should feel safe on and off campus. The chairman said sexual assault is extremely complicated, and Title IX should be started from scratch. “I don’t think they could do much worse from the current legislation,” Scott said.
Other aid within the bill includes the benefit of federal works studies concentrated around students’ majors and career paths. Also, federal work studies would soon benefit from the increase in minimum wage, which is a part of another act but still important to college affordability.
Overall the bill is motivated by a desire for investment in education. “Our goal in this congress is to have an investment in education. I am really proud to bring this to the floor,” Hayes said.