House Democrats are planning on introducing a bill to provide students with two years of tuition-free community college. Both parties have introduced their own proposals to reauthorize the Higher Education Act, which controls a large amount of the federal spending for higher education.
The Aim Higher Act would create a partnership between states and the federal government to give every student the opportunity to earn their associate’s degree debt free. States would receive grants from the federal government if they agree to invest in state schools and eliminate tuition for students seeking associate’s degrees at public, two-year colleges.
The Aim Higher Act would simplify the FAFSA application and automatically give students in the lowest income bracket a full Pell Grant, which would be equal to over $6500 each year.
The bill also aims to help increase the graduation rate of students who may struggle to complete college, like parents or veterans.
Their plan is unlikely to receive bipartisan support and may face criticism from within the moderate wing of the party. However, supporting the bill may be a litmus test for potential 2020 candidates.
Democrats are facing pressure to support tuition-free college as the college debt crisis grows. Over $1.3 trillion is owed in student loans in the United States.
“[The Aim Higher Act] provides immediate and long-term relief to students and parents struggling with the cost of college, it puts a greater focus on helping students graduate on time with a quality degree that leads to a rewarding career, and it cracks down on predatory for-profit colleges that peddle expensive, low-quality degrees at the expense of students and taxpayers,” said Rep. Bobby Scott of Virginia.
House Republicans are introducing their own reauthorization bill to the Higher Education Act. Their PROSPER Act could cut $15 billion from student aid and includes policies that favor private over public educational institutions.
The PROSPER Act ignores DACA recipients, saying nothing about whether or not they are eligible for financial aid. It would also repeal the TEACH grant which helps aspiring teachers fund their education.
Higher Education Act was last reauthorized in 2008.
The need for accessibility to affordable education is increasingly relevant. Not only do full-time workers with bachelor’s degrees earn 60 percent more than workers with high school diplomas alone, 68 percent of managerial job postings and 60 percent of computer and mathematical job listings require them. With public and private institution costs skyrocketing in just fifteen years, 40 million Americans now owe more than $1.3 trillion dollars in student loans, each with an average outstanding balance of $29,000 and a repayment period extending some 13.4 years, deepening economic inequality and hindering social mobility.
Media Resources: The Hill 7/24/18; Hechinger Report 7/27/18; ABC News 7/24/18, 7/24/18