In an effort to make college more affordable for students and their families, U.S. Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) and the Senate Education Committee started holding hearings today on the reauthorization process of the Higher Education Act.
The Higher Education Act governs most aspects of federal student aid, including Pell Grants and federal student loans. Over the next several months, Sen. Franken will participate in several Senate Education Committee hearings looking at higher education policy, and said he plans to help rewrite and improve the law to help Minnesota students and families.
"Many jobs in Minnesota require some kind of postsecondary education, and it's also become key to finding the kind of job you need to be part of the middle class," said Sen. Franken. "But the cost of college has been skyrocketing and, more and more, students are taking on debt. In Minnesota, our students are graduating college with the third highest level of debt in the country--about $30,000. That's why college affordability has been one of my biggest focuses as a Senator and will be my top priority as we reauthorize the Higher Education Act."
Sen. Franken has been a long-time leader on college affordability. Sen. Franken hosted a series of College Affordability Roundtables around Minnesota to hear directly from students, families, and higher education officials on what can be done to improve higher education. In June, Sen. Franken reintroduced his bipartisan Understanding the True Cost of College Act, which would create a universal financial aid award letter so that families and students can easily compare financial aid packages from different schools and know exactly how much debt they would be taking on. Additionally, Sen. Franken is the author of the Accelerated Learning Act--which was recently incorporated into the Senate bill to replace the so-called "No Child Left Behind" law--that would help make college affordable by expanding access to accelerated learning models like AP, IB, dual enrollment, and early college high schools for low-income students. This would allow students to get college credit while in high school and earn their college degree more quickly.
This summer, Sen. Franken voted to prevent an interest rate hike on student loans that would have impacted over 200,000 Minnesota students. In 2010, Sen. Franken helped pass historic reforms to the federal college financial aid system that eliminated the wasteful subsidies that the federal student loan program used to pay banks. That legislation used the savings to increase the Pell grant and to make it easier for low-income college graduates to repay their students loans.
Today's hearing focused on the oversight of higher education in the United States.