U.S. Senator Chris Coons (D-Del.) participated in a roundtable discussion on Wednesday with national education leaders, including Delaware State University President Dr. Harry Williams, focused on ideas for making college more affordable. The meeting was hosted by the Senate Democratic Steering and Outreach Committee and featured leaders from 14 colleges, universities and education advocacy groups.
"When it comes to finding ways to make college more affordable for our children, we must look at all the options," Senator Coons said. "Many students are delaying college, because of the astronomical costs that are associated with obtaining a degree that helps propel many individuals into the middle class. Today's meeting was helpful in facilitating an open discussion among member of the Senate and leaders in the education world and I thank Dr. Williams for joining us and sharing his insight and wisdom. I look forward to continuing to work with Dr. Williams to help more Delaware students access and complete college."
"Because of the increasing challenges of higher education affordability, Delaware State University constantly works to raise funds to help students make it through college without interruption due to financial reasons," Dr. Williams said. "Dreams deferred often become dreams cancelled, and it motivates DSU to do all it can to keep students on their journey toward earning a degree."
The hour-long discussion focused on the escalating costs of higher education, resulting student debt load increase, and what the federal government can do to make college more affordable to all Americans.
Senator Coons also discussed legislation he introduced that would help at-risk students prepare for and complete college.
The American Dream Accounts Act, which he introduced in March, encourages partnerships among schools, colleges, non-profits and businesses to develop secure, Web-based student accounts that contain information about academic preparedness, financial literacy and high-impact mentoring and would be tied to a college savings account.
The Communities Committed to College Tax Credit Act, which he introduced in April, is designed to help spur private investment in scholarship-funding trusts to make higher education more accessible and affordable for generations of Americans.
Senator Coons has also been an outspoken advocate for promoting science, technology, engineering, and math, or STEM, education. During the meeting, Dr. Williams discussed Delaware State University's focus on STEM education through an early college high school it is creating on campus. Through this effort, the University hopes to encourage more minority students to pursue careers in STEM fields as well as reduce their cost of college. Unfortunately, minority students are the ones suffering the most due to the rising costs of college. Dr. Williams discussed research showing how the rising costs of college results in decreased enrollment at Historically Black Colleges and Universities.
There has been a lot of discussion in Washington recently on college affordability and ensuring that students can get a higher education that doesn't cripple them financially. Today's meeting comes a week after the New America Foundation released a report showing that children can be more successful at saving for college when it starts early and they are given the infrastructure to save. The release of the New America Foundation report coincided with the U.S. Department of Education announcement on Thursday that the College Savings Account Research Demonstration Project will make an $8.7 million commitment of federal GEAR UP funds to support college savings accounts for students participating in the GEAR UP program.