"The Senate has held four hearings since the middle of January to discuss revamping the federal law governing higher education. But as momentum ramps up, signs of discord on fundamental issues may throw a wrench into the plan to reauthorize the law — which is overdue for an update — this year," The Chronicle of Higher Education reports.
"The Senate's education committee convened on Tuesday to discuss affordability in higher education. The problem was clear: The cost of higher education is rising, and students are having trouble repaying their debt. But there was less consensus on a solution.
'While it is never easy to pay for college, it is easier than many think, and it is unfair and untrue to suggest that for most students college is out of reach financially,' Sen. Lamar Alexander of Tennessee, chair of the committee, said. He proposed the 'Bennett hypothesis,' which is the idea that increasing federal student aid fuels rising college costs.
The National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators sent a letter to committee leaders on Monday calling the staying power of the hypothesis in policy discussions 'harmful' and 'irresponsible.'
'On its surface, the idea that federal, state, or other public subsidies would lead to higher, inflated prices resonates,' wrote Justin Draeger, the association's president. 'But the higher-education funding landscape is far too complex to attribute price increases to any single factor or source of funding.'
Senator Alexander, however, said that Congress should at least consider its effect. Further, he said that the question of greater federal investments in student aid is a question for another committee, but that a revised Higher Education Act should, in the meantime, simplify student aid and redirect money to Pell Grants to help low-income students.
Meanwhile, Democrats on the committee called for more federal dollars for student aid. 'The way we finance higher education by asking everyone to take on debt is sending a clear message that college is for the wealthy — not the students who have the most to gain,' said Sen. Patty Murray of Washington, the top Democrat on the committee. 'We can, and must, work to keep college within reach for all students.' Senator Murray was among those calling for greater direct investments."
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Publication Date: 2/7/2018