Today, Democratic members of the House of Representatives released the Aim Higher Act, a bill that would reauthorize the Higher Education Act, the federal law which authorizes a broad range of student aid programs and governs the federal role in higher education.
Demos, a public policy organization based in New York, has this response:
“Now is the time not only for bold policy, but a bold vision that promises this and future generations that they will never be priced out of their dreams,” said Mark Huelsman, Senior Policy Analyst at Demos. “We all benefit when we commit to investing in higher education, and we need to reverse decades of austerity, neglect, and a lack of oversight that have left students and their families to fend for themselves. Students today deserve a shot at a high-quality education that does not come with the specter of student loan debt.”
Demos believes the Aim Higher Act is a step in the direction of renewing this promise, and stands in contrast to the PROSPER Act, the Congressional Republicans’ proposal that advanced through the Education and Workforce Committee in December. Whereas the PROSPER Act would do virtually nothing to increase investment in public higher education, expand grant aid to struggling students, or reduce burdensome loan debt, the Aim Higher Act contains helpful provisions, such as a federal-state partnership to make community college tuition-free, a $500 increase in Pell Grants, expanded oversight to protect students against predatory colleges, and support to students at community colleges and Minority Serving Institutions.
We cannot afford half-measures if we want to provide real opportunity for the most diverse generation of students in our nation’s history. It is time to match the urgency of the need with the appropriate investment from the federal government, states, and educational institutions. Higher education should no longer reinforce inequality, and we urge Congress to do what it takes to make it so high prices and the prospect of debt no longer weigh on America’s working-class students and students of color. We remind Congress that public investments made college affordable for them when they attended, and that it’s time to provide this generation the opportunities that were once bestowed upon them.
The need for bold action on higher education is underlined by the results of recent polling and messaging research from Demos and Lake Research Partners which, among other findings, showed strong and durable support—across race, age, gender, and education level—for policies that would guarantee anyone could graduate from a two- or four-year college with no debt, and forgive debt for existing borrowers.