College Affordability Act: What People Are Saying

WASHINGTON — The College Affordability Act (H.R. 4674) is a comprehensive overhaul of our higher education system. The bill is a down payment on bold reforms to lower the cost of college, improve the quality of higher education, and expand opportunity for students from all backgrounds. Here’s what education leaders are saying about the landmark legislation:

AccessLex: “AccessLex Institute is pleased to offer our support for the College Affordability Act, which we believe would further the fundamental goals of the Higher Education Act (HEA) to increase access and affordability of higher education. The College Affordability Act overturns the student unit record ban that has prohibited the collection of student-level data since 2008. This proposal indicates that Congress appreciates the importance of providing students and families with information that is crucial to making higher education-related decisions, and AccessLex supports its inclusion."

American Association of Community Colleges (AACC): “On behalf of the nation’s 1,051 community colleges and their students, the American Association of Community Colleges (AACC) commends the many ways in which the College Affordability Act will enable millions of students to be successful at our institutions.  We are particularly pleased by the legislation’s inclusion of America’s College Promise, a substantial increase in the Pell Grant maximum, and new eligibility for short-term training programs as well as incarcerated students.  We look forward to working further with legislators on this critically needed, comprehensive legislation to reauthorize the Higher Education Act.”

American of Community College Trustees (ACCT): “We appreciate many aspects of the College Affordability Act and thank Chairman Scott for his leadership. The College Affordability Act puts postsecondary education within greater financial reach for millions of low-income students. In particular, we thank the Chairman for the priority given to providing greater access to the Pell Grant program, including: the reinstatement of Pell Grants for incarcerated individuals; expanded eligibility for short-term training programs; and increases to the maximum award level. We appreciate the inclusion of improvements to the formula for Federal Work Study and Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grants that will target funding to institutions with the neediest students. The bill also provides new financial and institutional support to meet the needs of today’s student population.”

American Federation of Teachers (AFT): “The College Affordability Act is a big step toward making higher education a realistic possibility for everyone who aspires to a college education. House Democrats have stepped up with a proposal that meets the needs of the struggling and the striving by creating a genuine pathway to college affordability, revamping loan forgiveness so it is there for people who need it, and increasing the investment in colleges and universities—institutions that have long suffered terrible disinvestment. Together, this set of reforms will bring many families closer to the dream of a college degree without the associated crushing debt.”

Association of Young Americans: On behalf of our 22,000 members across all 50 states, the Association of Young Americans (AYA) gladly endorses the College Affordability Act and believes this bill, if enacted, would make college more accessible and affordable for our nation’s students and would ensure institutions of higher education are accountable to the students they serve. The College Affordability Act truly puts young Americans first by investing in higher ed programs, simplifying the loan process, and ensuring students are educated about the debt they take on to attend college. We are glad that the bill would make managing college debt easier by helping students avoid default and allowing current borrowers to refinance. All of these provisions are critical to improving the higher education system in our country and we are grateful for the Education and Labor Committee’s unyielding leadership in keeping this issue front and center."

California Community Colleges: “The College Affordability Act makes critical investments and changes that can unlock the talent potential of more Americans to achieve greater social and economic mobility and we look forward to working with Congress in the coming weeks and months to further strengthen and improve this important bill as it moves through the legislative process.”

Center for American Progress: “In the decade that has passed since Congress last reauthorized the Higher Education Act, states have slashed funding for higher education, more students are having to take on debt loads that have soared nearly 25 percent, and oversight bodies have uncovered rampant wrongdoing at many of the nation’s for-profit colleges. The College Affordability Act lays out a bold vision for tackling many of these challenges—from implementing a state-federal partnership to spur new state funding to strong accountability measures. This bill shows the importance of a comprehensive solution to our nation’s biggest challenges in higher education.”

Center for Applied Special Technology (CAST): "Modernizing the Higher Education Act is vital to teacher preparation and to creating greater access to college for students who face barriers to learning such as language, low-literacy and/or disability. We applaud Chairman Scott for ensuring evidence-based practices such as Universal Design for Learning and the accessibility of technology, materials and open educational resources are central to the discussion."

The Center for Law and Social Policy (CLASP): “We applaud Representative Bobby Scott (D-Virginia) for introducing the College Affordability Act today. This vitally important bill expands access to affordable, high-quality postsecondary education, particularly for students and workers with low incomes who’ve been historically underrepresented in the nation’s higher education system and in the workforce. It addresses the basic unmet needs of students and workers seeking postsecondary education as well as the necessary skills to thrive in the workforce, the economy, and civic life.”

Coalition to Preserve PSLF: “We are grateful to see that this legislation preserves Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF). Additionally, we support the provisions that improve the administration of PSLF and thus ensure that our government upholds its promises to our public health, education, and safety professionals.” 

Coalition for International Education: “We applaud the College Affordability Act’s updating and renewal of HEA-Title VI as a leap forward to ensuring that American graduates have the international competencies for success in the 21st century workforce. The bill addresses the nation’s expanding needs for deep foreign language, world regional and international business expertise, while also providing students with new and innovative opportunities to obtain international skills in growing demand across a wide range of professional and technical fields.  More than ever, U.S. national security, economic competitiveness and successful global engagement depend on our ability to understand and work with diverse cultures around the world.”

The Century Foundation (TCF):  "This proposal is a step forward for college affordability in America. In particular, it expands Pell access to individuals who are incarcerated and to TPS and DACA recipients, and outlines a path to—and makes a down payment on—debt-free college through a new federal-state partnership, making meaningful strides toward ensuring that college once again serves as a ladder to the middle class,” said Jen Mishory,  The Century Foundation, Senior Fellow and Senior Policy Advisor.

“This proposal takes critical steps to tackling the growing problem of predatory colleges. By reinstating the “gainful employment” rule, closing the 90-10 loophole that has hurt veterans, and ensuring that colleges are making reasonable investments in actually teaching students, the proposal marks a direct rebuke to the Trump administration and Secretary DeVos, who have abandoned students in favor of investors,”  said Bob Shireman, The Century Foundation, Director of Higher Education Excellence. “Importantly, the proposal would also provide compensation to victims of predatory schools, so that low-income families are not penalized for simply trying to get an education. It’s a bold and much needed package.”

Correctional Leaders Association: "CLA supports reinstatement of Pell Grants for individuals in custody for several reasons, including the undisputed recidivism reduction benefits and the importance of education in breaking the cycle of intergenerational incarceration for justice-involved people and their families. Beyond these important benefits, there are unquantifiable positive outcomes to prisons and prison communities when custodial populations are engaged in productive activities, such as education, during their incarceration.

As corrections administrators, we can attest to the palpable changes in the climate and environment of a prison when those who are incarcerated have the opportunity to study and learn. The institutions where there is ample educational programs suffer from less violence and less disciplinary incidents than institutions where these opportunities are lacking. It simply makes sense that when people are engaged in something positive and rewarding, they have less desire (and opportunity) to engage in criminal or other undesirable conduct. To be sure, correctional staff see this bear out every day. In short, education programming for incarcerated people makes prisons safer."

Council of Parent Attorneys and Advocates (COPAA): "The College Affordability Act strengthens teacher preparation and faculty training, increases access to college through existing and new programs and promotes student rights. Together, these create greater access, and hopefully, the seamless transition and success in postsecondary education that students with disabilities need and deserve."

Education Trust: “We welcome the introduction of the College Affordability Act by House Education and Labor Committee Chairman Bobby Scott. This bill is the most comprehensive proposal to reauthorize the Higher Education Act (HEA) this Congress, and it advances the long-overdue conversation on higher education reforms. The College Affordability Act would make a down payment on ensuring the Pell Grant – the federal need-based aid program that millions of low-income students and students of color rely on each year to attend college – makes college more affordable. We are particularly pleased to see that it would expand Pell Grants to Dreamers and repeal the ban on Pell Grants for students who are incarcerated. The bill would also increase and renew permanent funding for Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) and minority-serving institutions (MSIs) that is currently blocked in the Senate, increase evidence-based supports to help students complete college, and simplify the FAFSA to increase access to federal financial aid. Additionally, it would strengthen important consumer protections, including the requirement that career education programs lead students to gainful employment in a recognized occupation (gainful employment rule), the right of students to have their loans canceled when their college closes or misleads them (borrower defense to repayment rule), and the limit on the amount of federal revenue for-profit colleges receive (90/10 rule). These are critical improvements, and ones that we and other stakeholders have called for since the last reauthorization of the Higher Education Act over a decade ago.”

Higher Education Consortium for Special Education (HECSE): “The Higher Education Consortium for Students with Disabilities (HECSE) applauds provisions in the College Affordability Act, which will open doors to provide access to higher education for students with disabilities.  The bill calls for building capacity for students with disabilities so that required accommodations, accessible instruction and unique programming will be widely available.  HECSE is also pleased to see that the bill addresses the retention of the Teacher Quality Partnership Grant program, the inclusion of new programs to address faculty shortages in teacher education and high quality programming for teachers who will be dually certified in both special education and general education.”

Higher Learning Advocates: “We are encouraged to see that the College Affordability Act includes recommendations that align with Higher Learning Advocates’ priorities to expand robust supports for today’s students. We applaud policies such as creating better connections and eligibility rules between students and means-tested benefit programs and expanding the use of open textbooks and micro-grants. These proposals, alongside financial aid reforms that better support students with dependents and low-income students in addition to simplifying the financial aid and repayment systems, would help to ensure that student aid and institutions are keeping up with the realities of today’s students.”

The Institute for College Access & Success (TICAS): "Chairman Bobby Scott today introduced the College Affordability Act, an overhaul of the Higher Education Act that would invest hundreds of billions of dollars to improve college access and affordability for students from all backgrounds. We applaud Chairman Scott for including in the bill critical new investments in the Pell Grant, stronger protections to better hold colleges accountable to students and taxpayers, a re-imagined federal-state partnership to significantly boost college affordability, streamlined and improved student loan repayment options, much-needed data on college costs and student outcomes, and a simplified financial aid application process. The bill demonstrates the value of a comprehensive rewrite of higher education laws and is a promising start to the reauthorization process. As the College Affordability Act moves through the legislative process, we look forward to continuing to work with Members of Congress to build on this proposal by bringing the costs of college into even closer reach, reducing equity gaps in college funding as well as access and attainment, and ensuring that federal aid is extended only to quality programs."

National Association for College Admission Counseling (NACAC): “NACAC is pleased to support the College Affordability Act. The bill makes strong investments in higher education, which will make college more affordable for thousands of students and will help ensure that students and taxpayers are protected from unscrupulous colleges.  NACAC urges Congress to pass this important legislation as soon as possible.”

National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators (NASFAA): “The College Affordability Act (CAA) would make historic investments in students, particularly low-income students who are underrepresented in higher education. The bill strengthens and expands the existing federal student aid programs and adds new programs targeted toward vulnerable populations … We appreciate and applaud the time and outreach Chairman Scott and other co-sponsors have dedicated to crafting this bill and we look forward to working with lawmakers as it moves through the legislative process.”

National Center for Special Education in Charter Schools: “The College Affordability Act does a tremendous job of modernizing teacher preparation, increasing access and promoting evidence-based practices that ensure success for marginalized students. Among its many laudable provisions, we are thrilled to see the bill would ensure students with disabilities have increased capacity to complete high school and enter college with automatic access to the accommodations previously received in high school. We appreciate Chairman Scott's focus on these much-needed updates to the law.”

National College Access Network (NCAN): “The College Affordability Act embraces NCAN’s key priorities for FAFSA Simplification by allowing students from low-income backgrounds who have already demonstrated their need to the federal government to fast-track the process. Additionally, it focuses on middle-income families earnings rather than requiring them to share their asset information. These changes in the application will increase the ability for our students to access federal student aid, making it more likely that they will enroll in college and close the equity gap in higher education.”

National Council for Community and Education Partnerships (NCCEP): “We enthusiastically support the College Affordability Act which will advance the most significant improvements to the GEAR UP program since its founding over 20 year ago. The act will significantly expand opportunities for students and families, forge stronger pathways to postsecondary education, and improve critical student outcomes. We are especially appreciative of the Committee’s thorough and thoughtful process in developing the act, which will make a real difference for students, families, and the educators that support them.”

National Education Association (NEA): “Chairman Bobby Scott should be applauded for his College Affordability Act, which begins to turn the tide toward making high-quality higher education affordable for all students, improves the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program designed to help educators pay off their student debt, and supports our country’s HBCUs and minority-serving institutions. On behalf of our country’s educators and students, NEA is proud to strongly support Chairman Scott’s College Affordability Act and looks forward to the legislation moving swiftly through the House. We hope the Senate will follow Chairman Scott’s lead by pursuing a comprehensive reauthorization.”

Student Veterans of America (SVA):SVA appreciates the attention to the needs of student veterans and non-traditional students included in the College Affordability Act. Closing the 90-10 loophole, addressing non-profit conversion blind spots, helping consumers have greater access to data, and correcting the recent rollback in regulatory protections will improve our higher education system and propel forward the students who use it. We look forward to working with Congress on a bipartisan basis to achieve a comprehensive reauthorization of the Higher Education Act that increases protections and academic outcomes for students.”

Third Way: “The College Affordability Act is a big step in the right direction, and we applaud House Democrats for introducing this critically important piece of legislation at a time when more Americans are looking to reap the economic benefits of a higher education than ever before. As Congress continues to move through the HEA reauthorization process, we hope policymakers will implement the guardrails outlined in this bill, and we challenge them to strengthen the accountability language even further to truly ensure our higher education system delivers for students and taxpayers.” 

Thurgood Marshall College Fund (TMCF): “The College Affordability Act makes tremendous and historic investments into Historically Black Colleges and Universities and in the low-income and first generation students that we take pride in serving better than anyone else,” said Thurgood Marshall College Fund President and CEO Harry L. Williams.  “A four-year college degree is still the most consequential and reliable ticket to the middle-class, and this bill, if passed, will make acquiring that ticket more easily attainable for millions of low-income and first generation students across the country.  We are appreciative of Chairman Bobby Scott making an affordable college education a pillar of his Higher Education Act Reauthorization Bill.”

United Negro College Fund (UNCF):The College Affordability Act is a great first step in providing equity for HBCUs and low income, first generation college students. The bill bolsters HBCU funding and keeps students first by providing much needed reforms to the student aid process. UNCF proudly supports many proposals presented in the bill and looks forward to continuing to work with Chairman Bobby Scott, and the full committee, to reauthorize the Higher Education Act of 1965.”

Veterans Education Success (VES): "We are thankful to the House for their comprehensive bill that addresses most of the concerns the military-affiliated community has expressed. In particular, this bill closes the notorious 90/10 loophole thereby protecting thousands of servicemembers, veterans, and their families from being targeted by predatory institutions looking to capitalize on student's hard-earned military education benefits."

Young Invincibles: “It’s been 11 years since we reauthorized the Higher Education Act, and we’re past due for a comprehensive update of the law to ensure every student -- especially those with the least access -- gets an affordable college education. By offering practical solutions like increasing the maximum Pell grant amount, tying Pell to inflation rates, streamlining the financial aid and loan repayment processes, and quadrupling funding for on-campus childcare, the College Affordability Act directly addresses the most pressing challenges facing today’s students. Today’s young people are the most diverse generation in history, and they can’t afford to drown in debt as Congress stalls on fixing our broken higher education system. We look forward to working with other advocates and members of Congress to ensure legislation that reflects the needs of today’s students becomes law.”

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