From Your Lobbyist: AYA Endorses the College Affordability Act
October 18, 2019
Week of Oct. 14-18
College Affordability Act Unveiled and AYA Proudly Endorses This Awesome Piece of Legislation!
Earlier this week after months of anticipation, the House Education & Labor Committee chaired by Rep. Bobby Scott (D-VA) finally unveiled legislation that would overhaul the higher education system by reauthorizing the Higher Education Act. Entitled “The College Affordability Act” or “CAA” for short, the bill is a HUGE WIN for our AYA members, as it includes several provisions that, if passed into law, would make college more affordable, hold institutions accountable, and protect student borrowers.
The comprehensive legislation deals with important topics like restoring gainful employment rules, borrower defense to repayment, and sexual assault on college campuses but takes a far more measured approach to college costs than the plans proposed by several Democratic Presidential candidates. Rather than introducing a moonshot plan to make all college free (which AYA actually also supports), as Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and Bernie Sanders (D-VT) have proposed––but which has little chance of actually becoming law––the bill would seek to create federal and state partnerships to make two-year community colleges free and make 4-yeardegrees less expensive by increasing Pell Grants by $500 and indexing those awards to inflation. The bill would also allow students to use Pell Grants for quality, short term programs as a way to assist college graduates receive additional employment skills and to provide a pathway to two and four-year degrees. Further, the bill would allow incarcerated students to receive Pell Grants for high quality education programs in order to escape the prison pipeline, something which AYA has recently been advocating strongly for.
A large portion of the bill focuses on making federal student loans “cheaper to take out, simpler to understand, and easier to pay-off” by eliminating hidden fees on loans, reducing the large number of repayment plans to two and streamlining the process to take out and pay-off those loans. Chairman Scott himself termed the bill “a modest proposal,” saying: “This legislation achieves all of these important goals, while spending a fraction of the cost of the GOP tax cut. The College Affordability Act is a proposal that Members across the political spectrum should be able to support. It is a necessary and sensible response to the challenges that students and families are facing every day.” A number of education groups endorsed the bill immediately, including AYA:
“On behalf of our 22,000 members across all 50 states, the Association of Young Americans (AYA) gladly endorses the College Affordability Act and believes this bill, if enacted, would make college more accessible and affordable for our nation’s students and would ensure institutions of higher education are accountable to the students they serve. The College Affordability Act truly puts young Americans first by investing in higher ed programs, simplifying the loan process, and ensuring students are educated about the debt they take on to attend college. We are glad that the bill would make managing college debt easier by helping students avoid default and allowing current borrowers to refinance. All of these provisions are critical to improving the higher education system in our country and we are grateful for the Education and Labor Committee’s unyielding leadership in keeping this issue front and center.”
Despite the Democratic Ed & Labor Committee’s efforts to make this bill appealing to Republicans, though, Ranking Member Virginia Foxx’s (R-NC) response to it shows the uphill climb the bill faces. Remember, Rep. Foxx proposed the PROSPER Act in the last Congress, which sought to cut $15 billion in student aid and virtually eliminate all loan and grant program. Given her disdain for using federal money to help make college affordable and on the heels of putting forth her own bill in the last Congress that was so partisan even many Republicans hated it, it is no surprise that her take on the CAA was not as optimistic: “This bill does not address the underlying issue of exploding college costs. In fact, by increasing burdensome requirements and bureaucratic red tape the Democrats’ bill will contribute to rising college costs. It is past time Congress acknowledges the status quo is failing. Doubling down on failed policies will not help students pursue the American Dream. Instead of promoting unworkable partisan bills, we ought to work together to support students’ access to affordable postsecondary education that will prepare them to enter the workforce with the skills they need for lifelong success.” Plans to mark-up this bill in committee have not yet been announced but Chairman Scott has stated he’d like to move this bill through the House by the end of the year so markup could happen soon.
In the meantime, tell your House Reps to support the bill.