Smith Votes to Make College More Affordable and Accessible
Congressman Lamar Smith this week voted in favor of the Conference Report on the College Opportunity and Affordability Act of 2007, which passed with broad bipartisan support. The legislation, which seeks to make college more affordable and accessible, combines the House and Senate versions of the bill.
"A secure financial aid system is an essential part of our nation's higher education policy and transparency of that system is needed," said Congressman Smith. "Higher education must be both accessible and affordable and this bill holds colleges and universities accountable to those paying for an education."
The bill creates a Web site where parents and students can go to search, compare and watch college costs. It requires colleges and universities to report reasons for tuition increases and steps taken to correct inefficiencies. The bill also identifies the most and least costly school, as well as those with rising cost increases.
As college tuition and fees rise, so does the amount of debt that students are saddled with. According to the U.S. Department of Education, in 2005, loans accounted for 56 percent of aid in the U.S. and grants accounted for 43 percent.
In 2005, 66 percent of aid in Texas came from loans and 33 percent came from grants, including state and institutional grants. Also, Texas public four-year universities costs have risen each year. This means that costs are increasing at a higher rate in Texas compared to the nation.
The legislation holds states accountable to ensure that college is affordable for students. It requires that states maintain a level of financial support equal to the average amount of financial aid funding over the past five years.
"College graduates in the U.S. earn nearly twice as much as those with just a high school degree. So higher education is no longer a luxury --- it is essential," asserted Smith. "With state funding for higher education at an all time low, the financial need of our children will only grow in the future."