Making College Affordable

This week the Ohio State University announced that it would cover full tuition for all Pell Grant eligible students, expanding its support of low-middle income students for students all across the state. Ohio State's regional campuses in Marion and Lima are included in this program, benefitting many students in our own communities.

This is a big step forward for our students, and we ought to applaud Ohio State for taking the issue of college affordability seriously. University President Michael Drake stated, “Expanding our tuition-coverage program will help ensure even more Ohio families have the opportunity to advance their lives and communities through higher education."

The fact of the matter is that in the modern economy it has become increasingly important that students obtain college degrees to better compete in the workforce and earn well-paying jobs. The United States has the best institutions of higher education in the world, yet many students go to college and come out saddled with student debt.

In 2016, the average college graduate had more than $30,000 in loans. In Congress, I will work to increase federal student aid and to encourage legislation that will cap loan payments based on income. I will also be a strong advocate for tighter regulations against large student loan providers, who frequently do not inform students of all their options and do not put them on the best repayment plan. I believe that colleges and universities can play a role in helping to ease this crisis (evident in Ohio State's announcement this week). I will support legislation that gives colleges incentives to offer more financial aid so that even more schools follow Ohio State's lead.

A number of states and localities have also begun “Promise programs”, which guarantee free community college for students that meet some kind of standard (often times high school GPA). These programs vary widely, and each meets important needs of their surrounding communities. Thus, the Association for Community College Trustees (ACCT) recommends that the federal government not attempt to standardize them offer exact national requirements, and instead support existing, successful programs with extra funding.

With that being said, the goal should be not just to increase access, but also to increase college graduation rates. A study by the Brookings Institution shows that students are more likely to graduate with academic support, mentoring, and other core social services, and these are areas that have suffered significantly since post-2008 budget cuts. Thus, increasing funding for colleges should be aimed at improving academic support and resources for students, including counseling, mentoring, etc. Specifics of funding mechanisms can vary, but funding should be focused on this specific area that has seen a lot of cuts and has been proven to increase diploma attainment.

I also understand that many students are better served to learn technical skills at high-quality vocational schools and continuing on to fill important roles in our economy. I will support legislation to bolster our nation’s technical and vocational schools as well.

Overall, we have a lot of work to do to make our higher education system more accessible, affordable, and equitable so that the benefits of having the best institutions in the world benefit every segment of our society. When I am in Congress, I'll be working towards this goal.

Janet GarrettComment