Three modest, bipartisan pieces higher education legislation aimed at improving transparency around financial aid and promoting innovative approaches for students passed the U.S. House of Representatives this week, prompting Rep. George Miller (D-Calif.), the Senior Democrat on the House Education and the Workforce Committee to call for more comprehensive action to keep college accessible and affordable for students.
"We have made a promise to America's students to make a college education more affordable and more accessible. These bills are a good step forward," said Miller. "Improved and transparent information on financial aid and college costs will help students and their families make more informed decisions about how to finance their education. And I see competency-based education as one of the most promising new innovations for ensuring college access and affordability."
The legislation that passed the House this week included:
The Advancing Competency-Based Education Demonstration Project Act (H.R. 3136) helps colleges and universities to create innovative programs that measure students' mastery of skills and academic content, offering students new opportunities to complete their higher education. This bill will help ensure that more Americans have access to high quality, flexible educational opportunities that meet their needs and give them the skills to succeed in the 21st century economy.
The Strengthening Transparency in Higher Education Act (H.R. 4983) creates a new "College Dashboard," a tool for students to decide for themselves if a college has a good track record and is right for them. The dashboard will provide students and their families helpful information about each college, including: enrollment numbers, completion data for full-time and part-time students, net cost of attendance, average student loan debt and repayment rates, and transparency on the school's use of adjunct faculty. Democrats successfully fought to strengthen H.R. 4983 by including language to ensure that schools are being transparent about their reliance and treatment of adjunct faculty. This information is an important first step towards addressing the unfair treatment of many adjunct faculty.
The Empowering Students through Enhanced Financial Counseling Act (H.R. 4984) provides more and better upfront, on-going, and exit counseling information on financial aid and student debt so that students can make more informed choices of how to finance their education and always know how much they will owe.
During consideration of the bills, Republicans voted overwhelmingly to defeat two Democratic amendments offered by Representative Tierney, to give student loan borrowers a refinancing rebate--a measure that would save student and parents thousands of dollars by reducing their loan debt.
"Today's action is not enough for students already facing a mountain of college debt." Miller added. "We shouldn't just stand by while a whole generation of college graduates gets left behind under the burden of staggering, historically high student loan debt. With few legislative days left in this Congress, it is unthinkable that we do wouldn't take decisive action on behalf of millions of students and their parents to address college debt and college costs."