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College Affordability Act Is A Start Toward Reducing Higher Education Costs

Tuesday, October 15, 2019
Ashley Harrington

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Education and Labor introduced the College Affordability Act, a bill to lower the costs of college for students and improve the quality of education.

The bill includes important provisions to make quality higher education more accessible and affordable for students and families, including indexing the Pell Grant to inflation, extending federal aid eligibility to DACA recipients and Pell Grants to individuals who are incarcerated, creating a path to debt-free community college through the America’s College Promise federal-state partnership, and creating more accountability for for-profits and loan servicers.

However, to ensure that this bill maximizes access, affordability, and opportunity--particularly for Black and Latino students and other marginalized groups--it is also important for this legislation to include provisions such as:

  • Capping interest accrual so loan balances don't continue to grow - especially for those successfully making payments under an IDR plan;
  • Capping collection fees and costs to protect our most vulnerable borrowers;
  • Making loan repayment plans truly affordable by shortening repayment and limiting monthly payments under income-based repayment (IBR) to 8% of discretionary income;
  • Providing mechanisms for borrowers and taxpayers to provide input on servicer standards, solicitation and selection; and
  • Stronger criteria for gainful employment programs.

Further, due to committee jurisdictional issues, the bill does not include important tax code revisions. These critical revisions would enable automatic enrollment and recertification for IBR, tax-free loan forgiveness, and the discharge of student debt in bankruptcy. A broad-based proposal has not been introduced in the Senate and Chairman Lamar Alexander recently blocked important HBCU and MSI funding while proposing a limited package of bills.

Center for Responsible Lending Senior Policy Counsel Ashley Harrington released the following statement:

Our lawmakers must again recognize the value of a public investment in higher education and the costly consequences of failing to provide it. We commend Chairman Bobby Scott and the other members of the committee for introducing a substantive bill that advocates across the country can build upon. This legislation is a strong start and we look forward to working with members of the House to improve provisions related to student loan repayment and for-profit college accountability, and to ensure that greater investments in Pell Grants are included in the final version of the bill.

We urge Chairman Alexander and the Senate HELP committee to follow suit and propose a comprehensive higher education bill that addresses the concerns of students and taxpayers, rather than continuing to hold HBCU and MSI funding hostage. Congress must work together, across committees, parties, and chambers to ensure that any Higher Education Act reauthorization truly addresses college affordability and the student debt crisis. With more than $1.5 trillion in outstanding student loan debt, borrowers and taxpayers, particularly those of color, deserve nothing less.

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Press Contact: Ricardo Quinto ricardo.quinto@responsiblelending.org