Student Advocacy Group Outlines College Affordability Agenda

By Brittany Hackett, Communications Staff

The student advocacy group Young Invincibles (YI) recently presented an agenda to make college more affordable with better outcomes for graduates, including creating a way for students to go to college debt-free and reducing student loan burdens.

“Fixing our education system will require action from all stakeholders,” YI said in the brief outlining their agenda. “But in taking bold action, candidates can bring back the promise of a debt-free, quality degree, while cutting current debt-levels in half for today’s struggling borrowers.”

YI’s agenda is broken into three reform objectives. First, the group proposes a way to give students a path to a debt-free college degree at four-year public institutions and community colleges, as well as reducing the prices at private institutions. The proposal would cost a total of around $24 billion and would be accomplished through seven strategies:

  1. Increasing the Pell Grant to the national average in-state tuition, which was $9,139 for the 2014-15 academic year, and moving the entire Pell program to mandatory spending within the federal budget, thereby insulating it from the yearly budget process and potential cuts. YI estimates this proposal will cost $21 billion.
  2. Creating year-round Pell Grants that allow recipients to take extra courses during the summer and other extra terms in the same calendar year. This proposal is estimated to cost $2.1 billion.
  3. Simplifying the FAFSA and implementing prior-prior year income reporting to correct the timing of financial aid awards. This proposal, which NASFAA has long supported, would cost an estimated $3 billion, according to YI.
  4. Incentivizing states to reinvest in higher education through things like a Pell-matching grant program or block grants. YI estimates a $23 billion cost for this proposal, which would be divided by the federal and state governments.
  5. Expanding investments in child care for student parents, including increasing access to child care on campus. The cost, also divided between federal and state governments, would be about $500 million.
  6. Simplifying the higher education tax system by providing the American Opportunity Tax Credit (AOTC) at the time of purchase and making it fully refundable. YI estimates that this would save about $3 billion.
  7. Reforming the Federal Work-Study Program to allocate funding based on need and encouraging work placements that provide students with experience needed for their future careers. YI proposes increasing the program’s funding to $3 billion annually, which would allow it to reach over 2 million students. Reforms to the program would cost $2 billion.

The second proposal in YI’s agenda is to “disrupt” the current system of higher education to improve access, quality, and outcomes. One way the group proposes to do this is by creating a student unit record, which is currently banned under the Higher Education Act. Creating a unified record system would “provide students and families with essential information about their college and career choices, while protecting the privacy of sensitive information,” YI said in the brief. 

The group also suggests creating thresholds for Title IV eligibility using proposals from the Education Trust that would require four-year institutions to enroll at least 17 percent Pell Grant recipients annually and allocate 60 percent of their own grant aid based on need, and would revoke Title IV eligibility if fewer than 15 percent of an institution’s students graduate within six years. YI estimates that these reforms would save about $15 billion.

Other proposals to disrupt the system include expanding registered apprenticeships and AmeriCorps.

And finally, YI proposes ways to reduce existing student loan debt burden and better protect borrowers by:

  1. Moving all student loan borrowers to an income-based repayment plan, which could reduce their monthly payments by as much as 70 percent
  2. Allowing borrowers with high interest rates to refinance their loans and allowing those with private loans to convert them to federal loans
  3. Reforming student loan servicer and debt collection practices
  4. Improving consumer protections for borrowers with private student loans
  5. Creating a Borrower Bill of Rights and establishing a Consumer Advocate within the Department of Education
  6. Giving institutions “skin in the game” by tying student loan repayment to schools’ Title IV eligibility.


Publication Date: 6/18/2015

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