Washington, DC (October 15, 2019) – Today Representative Bobby Scott (D-VA), chairman of the U.S. House Committee on Education & Labor, introduced the College Affordability Act of 2019, a comprehensive proposal to reauthorize the expired Higher Education Act (HEA). In response, Michelle Asha Cooper, Ph.D., President of the Institute for Higher Education Policy (IHEP), released the following statement:
“The Institute for Higher Education Policy (IHEP) welcomes the momentum sparked by Chairman Scott’s College Affordability Act (CAA), which recognizes the diversity of today’s students and supports their access to and success in college. The CAA makes great strides in improving college affordability for students with financial need, promoting transparency about student outcomes, and fostering college completion.
“As the cornerstone of our federal student aid system for more than 40 years, the Pell Grant program has a proven record of expanding college access for students of lower incomes, but its purchasing power has declined to its lowest point in more than 40 years. The CAA delivers critical Pell Grant investments by increasing the maximum award by $500 and indexing it to inflation, while also providing critical investment in the need-based Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant. To ensure the Pell Grant program continues to drive college opportunity for generations to come, we encourage lawmakers to fund it through mandatory, rather than discretionary, funding.
“The bill also recognizes the importance of restoring Pell Grant eligibility for all incarcerated students and improving access to quality higher education programs in prisons. These programs can transform the lives of individuals and communities, disrupt cycles of mass incarceration, and lead to increased employment and civic engagement among participants.
“Further, the bill accounts for the national need for transparent information about postsecondary outcomes. By including the bipartisan, bicameral College Transparency Act (CTA), the CAA would remove the ban on student-level data collection, empowering students, families, policymakers, institutions, and employers to make evidence-based decisions. CTA—an essential component of any reauthorization that has the support of more than 170 organizations, more than one quarter of the Senate, and 70 House members—ensures that student privacy will be protected while critical information about student outcomes will be transparent and accessible.
“Finally, the CAA takes important steps to improve degree completion for all students, especially among the 35 million American adults with some college credit, but no degree. The bill will enable more seamless institution-to-institution reverse credit transfers to ensure that students are receiving the degrees that they have earned.
“As the House and Senate move forward in reauthorizing the Higher Education Act, we urge policymakers to promote affordability, transparency, and college completion—especially for students who have been left behind by our higher education system, including students with financial need, students of color, and incarcerated students. Our nation’s students—and our nation itself—cannot wait any longer for these critical reforms.”