From Your Lobbyist: College Affordability Act Passes Committee, House Floor Next
November 1, 2019
Week of Oct. 25-Nov. 1
Despite the city’s exuberance over the Washington Nationals’ World Series victory on Wednesday night (go Nats!) and the distraction of the ongoing impeachment proceedings, important work on education policy actually occurred in Washington this week. After a three-day mark-up in which over 50 amendments were considered, the Democratic led House Education & Labor Committee approved the College Affordability Act, a comprehensive reauthorization of the Higher Education Act on a party line vote––with all Democrats in favor and all Republicans opposed.
Despite the length of time the mark-up lasted, the Committee approved some significant changes to the base bill, which AYA strongly supported. In recognition that the Pell increase still wasn’t enough to cover today’s college costs, the Committee agreed to increase the yearly maximum Pell Grant awards by another $125 on top of the $500 in the original bill. Additionally, to study the impact of loan forgiveness on helping to close the racial wealth gap, the Committee approved an amendment by Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) that would establish a commission to investigate the economic outcomes of forgiving student debt. Aside from just direct college costs, Rep. Bonamici’s (D-OR) amendment that was aimed to help alleviate food insecurity on campus by requiring colleges to notify students about food assistance eligibility. Lastly, an amendment from Rep. Trahan (D-MA) was adopted unanimously by the Committee that would require colleges to establish a net price calculator in order to make the cost of college more transparent. Despite Republican efforts to pass amendments that would have stripped gainful employment and borrower defense rule, gut grant aid programs, and eliminate PSLF, all of those amendments were defeated. AYA vocally opposed all of those amendments during the markup by tweeting at the Reps. who introduced them. Overall, AYA was extremely pleased with the amendment’s adopted to improve the already stellar College Affordability Act.
Committee Chair Bobby Scott (D-VA) touted the bill in a statement released following its passage: “A quality, college degree remains the surest path to financial security and a rewarding career. Accordingly, we must fulfill the promise of making higher education affordable for all students. The College Affordability Act is a comprehensive bill that will immediately lower the cost of college while putting a down payment on investments that we need to make in the future. I applaud my colleagues for their work on behalf of student and families, and I look forward to bringing this legislation to the House Floor.” Committee Ranking Member Virginia Foxx (R-NC), who voted no on the bill and spent much of the mark-up castigating it, issued a statement that dubbed the bill the “College #unAffordability Act” and declared that “we can do better.” Reminder, Rep. Foxx was the author of the PROSPER Act, which would have cut $15 billion in aid, stripped all protections for student borrowers, and essentially give free reign to for-profits in the last Congress when she chaired the Committee. That bill was soundly defeated in part thanks to AYA’s staunch advocacy in opposition along with hundreds of other organizations.
The CAA now awaits going to the House floor for a full vote and AYA has made it easy to take action by sending this prewritten letter to your Reps., urging a YES vote on the College Affordability Act.