Why Two Bipartisan Bills To Make College Affordable Are Going Nowhere In Congress

Career College Central Summary:

  • The first bill, proposed in June by Sen. Lamar Alexander, the highest-ranking Senate Republican on education, and Sen. Michael Bennet, a Colorado Democrat, would simplify the Fafsa, the application all students must fill out to receive federal financial aid. The bill would slim the Fafsa from a daunting 108 questions to two: How much did your family earn two years ago, and how big is your family?
  • The second bill, from Sen. Marco Rubio, a Florida Republican, and Sen. Mark Warner, a Virginia Democrat, would end the complicated current system of student loan repayment in favor of basing loan payments on borrowers' income. The federal government would collect the payments automatically, withdrawing them from borrowers' paychecks, for 20 years or until the loan is paid off — whichever comes first. Borrowers could also opt out and pay back their loans with a standard payment for 10 years, as they do today.
  • Both bills are earnest, bipartisan efforts to solve a widely acknowledged problem — the kind of thing that would usually seem like a starting point for legislation. Neither deals with the most partisan issues in the higher education debate.
  • Neither is likely to face an all-out assault in opposition from colleges and universities, although some have concerns about the Fafsa bill.
  • And neither bill is likely to get so much as a committee markup this year, let alone a vote on the Senate floor. The reason is a tangle of partisanship and protocol.  

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