Senators Pitch Reforms To Make College More Affordable

Career College Central summary:

  • Senators who spoke at the Community College National Legislative Summit offered ideas for reforms to make college more affordable and more accessible.
  • Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) called for major reforms in the financial aid system, noting that students at a public university today pay about 300 percent more than what their parents paid 30 years ago — and that one in seven borrowers default on their loans within three years. Warren's two-step solution is to leverage federal dollars with matching state funds — similar to the partnership that financed the national highway system — and to “eliminate the obscene profits on student loans.”
  • For Sen. Lamar Alexandr (R-Tenn.), the answer is deregulating higher education. Alexander, a former U.S. secretary of education, said he voted against reauthorizing the Higher Education Act (HEA) in 2008 because there were too many regulations. This time, “I’d like to start from scratch,” he said, noting that he is working with other senators on a task force to simplify HEA by identifying its main objectives and putting them in plain English.
  • Showing the audience the multi-page Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) form, which he called “pretty intimidating,” Alexander suggested reducing it to the size of a postcard, with just two questions: “What was your family income two years ago? And what is your family size today?” He suggested students should fill out the FAFSA during their junior year of high school, which would let them know they can afford higher education and give them time to shop around. The money saved by doing this could be used to provide more Pell grants.

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