Higher Education Act Reauthorization Bill Is An Opportunity

Congress must pass this year a broad Higher Education Act reauthorization bill to expand access to higher education, give American students the tools they need to complete college, and acquire the knowledge and skills needed to be successful in the 21st century global economy.

We must use this reauthorization process to promote innovation and new technologies that will keep costs down, encourage competitive financial aid, open doors to more information helpful to students and parents planning for college, and improve financial literacy across the board.

We need to promote better financial literacy among students and their parents, so that they will know what their financial obligations are, and can manage debt more effectively.  Students should graduate with a degree in hand, not a ball and chain of debt holding them back.

Congress must also work to simplify the federal student aid system, which is so complicated and difficult to navigate that it impedes access to higher education.  It’s time to make filling out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) less complicated than filling out our tax forms – and for an accountant to say that is really something.

We must take a close look at the ‘hidden’ costs of college that are driving up the price.  For instance, many students enter school without the knowledge and skills that they need and must take remedial coursework just to catch up, costing them extra semesters.  Other students transfer from one school to another only to discover that their hard-earned, fully-paid credits will not count toward a degree at their new school.  This costs students money and time, and adds to taxpayers’ costs, too.  It also contributes to higher attrition rates, particularly for low-income students.

Colleges must make better information available to students and parents regarding the costs and advantages of their institutions.  By finding innovative ways and utilizing new technologies to help students and parents comparison shop, we can help them make the best choices.