Dems call for reduction in college costs

Sens. Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii) and Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) called on Congress Tuesday to reduce the cost of college for students.

Schatz and Murphy introduced the College Affordability and Innovation Act, which would give universities grants to create a model for earning a college degree in less than four years in an effort to reduce costs for students. 

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College tuition has increased at a much higher rate than inflation, but students are also taking longer to earn a degree, increasing the amount of debt a student will leave school with.

Their bill would also contain accountability standards — particularly targeting for-profit colleges — to ensure that all higher education institutions that receive federal money are first and foremost trying to educate students in an efficient and effective manner. They say those changes would mean taxpayer dollars are being spent wisely.

“The federal government needs to use our resources to hold colleges accountable and bring down the price students and families pay, instead of profiting off them,” Schatz said. “That’s why I introduced the College Affordability and Innovation Act with Chris Murphy, to create new accountability standards and encourage innovation to bring down the cost of college for students.”

Most for-profit colleges are more expensive than public universities and have a poor college completion record, yet a significant amount of federal loans go to these institutions. Some Democrats have called for ending all federal funding to for-profit colleges, but Murphy and Schatz’s bill doesn’t go that far.

Murphy said Tuesday that their bill has a four-year probationary period to allow institutions to reset priorities to ensure students aren’t being taken advantage of. If the institution or college didn’t make the corrections after four or five years, it would then no longer be eligible for federal funds, including student loans.

Murphy and Schatz said they hope some of their ideas would be incorporated into the Higher Education Act, which is up for reauthorization this year. 

Sens. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Patty Murray (D-Wash.) are co-sponsoring the bill. 

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