Senators in Both Parties Agree: States Must Do More for Higher Education

Career College Central Summary:

  • Congressional hearings often feature bitter partisanship and acrimonious finger pointing. But there was mostly agreement on Thursday at a higher-education hearing of the U.S. Senate’s Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions.
  • Both Sen. Tom Harkin, a Democrat of Iowa, and Sen. Lamar Alexander, a Republican of Tennessee, agreed that states should take a leading role in paying for and overseeing public colleges. Senator Harkin, the committee’s chairman, reiterated his view that states largely disinvested from higher education during the most recent recession, driving up the tuition costs and requiring students to go deeper in debt for a college education.
  • "The steady erosion of state investment in public higher education over the last few decades reflects a stunning abdication of responsibility on the part of states to preserve college affordability," Senator Harkin said in his prepared remarks.
  • While Senator Alexander identified a different culprit for shrinking state support for public colleges—rising Medicaid costs—he said he too expects states to take the lead in paying for higher education.
  • "Despite the more than $30-billion in federal dollars that go to students each year in grants, the federal government remains a minority investor in higher education," said Mr. Alexander, a former secretary of education.
  • In addition to freeing states from the costs of Medicaid, Senator Alexander said, the federal government could help states and colleges by reducing regulations for federally backed research on campuses and could help families and students by simplifying the process to apply for federal financial aid.

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