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House Democrats Unveil ‘Roadmap to College’ Legislative Package to Tackle Access, Affordability and Quality of Postsecondary Programs

By Hugh T. Ferguson, NASFAA Managing Editor

On Tuesday, House Democrats put forth a package of bills dubbed the “Roadmap to College Student Success” that incorporates six pieces of legislation seeking to address issues in higher education, with a particular focus on affordability, access and student support.

Rep. Bobby Scott (D-Va.), ranking member of the House Committee on Education and the Workforce, formally unveiled the legislative blueprint, which serves as an outline of Democrats’ higher education agenda for 2024 — and an alternative to the proposal recently put forth by Rep. Virginia Foxx (R-N.C.), chair of the committee.

“This campaign has three main objectives: first, bring down the cost of college, second, help students access a quality degree, and third—once students are in school—provide them with the support they need to graduate,” Scott said. “Ultimately, our goal remains the same as it was in 1965: Regardless of a student’s background, a college degree shall never be out of reach.”

Scott added that in the coming months Democrats would continue to add other pieces of legislation to the package that seek to ensure students can access and benefit from higher education.

The bills currently included in the package include:

  • H.R. 1731 – Lowering Obstacles to Achievement Now (LOAN) Act. In its most recent iteration the LOAN Act would double the federal Pell Grant by increasing the maximum award over a five-year period to $14,000. The bill would also alter the Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) program by reducing the time repayment from 120 to 96 on-time monthly payments, and codifying the limited PSLF waiver.

  • H.R. 5998 – America's College Promise Act. As introduced, this bill would create a new federal-state partnership to make the first two years of community college tuition-free for eligible students.

  • H.R. 961 – Pell to Grad Act. Most recently introduced in February of 2023, this bill would extend the eligibility period for the usage of a Pell Grant from the current 12 semester cap to a new cap of 16 semesters, and allow students who have received a Pell Grant during their undergraduate work to use any remaining unused eligibility for graduate school. Currently, Pell Grants are prohibited from being used in graduate or professional degree programs.

  • H.R. 2957 – College Transparency Act. A bipartisan bill, most recently introduced in April of 2023, this bill would create a user-friendly website for students and families with reports on student outcomes including enrollment, completion, and post-college success across colleges and programs. Institutions would be able to report privacy-protected, student-level data to the National Center for Education Statistics, among other things.

  • H.R. 2401 – Respond, Innovate, Succeed, and Empower (RISE) Act. A proposal with bipartisan support, this bill would allow students with disabilities to utilize existing documentation, such as an individualized education program (IEP), as proof to demonstrate a need for accommodations while transitioning to higher education.

  • H.R. 309 – Opportunity to Address College Hunger Act. Originally introduced in January of 2023, the bill would require institutions who participate in the Federal Work-Study (FWS) program to inform students in the program, through email or other electronic means, that they may qualify for SNAP benefits. Institutions would also provide qualifying students documentation, developed by the secretary of ed and agriculture, of their eligibility.

Scott used the proposal’s introduction as a “contrast” to Foxx’s College Cost Reduction Act, which was marked up by the Education and the Workforce Committee on Wednesday, arguing that the Republican plan would do nothing to lower the cost of college, and would eliminate protections against low-quality institutions and programs.

During the markup members sparred over their vision for reforms needed in higher education.

NAFSAA provided a three-part overview of Foxx’s legislation, which seeks to address issues around college cost, accountability, and transparency.

Further, NASFAA also shared feedback with the committee and praised student-friendly provisions of the bill, while also expressing concern over the elimination of a number of programs. NASFAA also had questions about the bill’s new institutional risk-sharing framework, as well as on a new loan repayment scheme.

Stay tuned to Today’s News for continuing coverage of these proposals.

 

Publication Date: 2/2/2024


Lane S | 2/2/2024 9:8:59 AM

How about the road map begins with a usable FAFSA for both families and colleges? Maybe some additional bi-partisan, in unison pressure on the DOE to get their act together ought to be on this map.

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