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House Democrats’ New Bill Would Drive Up College Costs Even Further

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Unread 10.16.19, 05:31 PM
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House Democrats’ New Bill Would Drive Up College Costs Even Further

On 10.16.19 01:00 PM posted by Mary Clare Amselem

House Democrats on Tuesday introduced a bill that combinessome of the worst higher education policies into one bundle.

The bill, titled the College Affordability Act, would overhaul the Higher Education Act of 1965. While that law certainly needs significant revision, this proposal would replicate, and in some cases double down on, the unwise policies that led to our current $1.6 trillion student debt crisis.

Americans simply cannot afford the College AffordabilityAct.

De Facto Loan Forgiveness

While this bill doesn’t outright cancel student debt,students would see significantly more of their loan balances forgiven under theproposed restructuring of payment plans.

The College Affordability Act would cap monthly payments andenable students to enroll in an income-based repayment plan. Students who makeregular payments would then have the remainder of their loan balances forgivenafter 20 years.

While some students are already enrolled in this type ofplan today, tying even more payments to income and capping monthly payments wouldcause the bill left to taxpayers at the 20-year mark to skyrocket.

Parent borrowers would also qualify for income-basedrepayment under this proposal. The parent PLUS loan program is one of the mostegregious drivers of tuition inflation, as parents tend to take out large loanbalances.

It is simply bad policy to potentially leave taxpayers onthe hook for parents who took out student loans on behalf of their adultchildren.

De Facto ‘Free’ College

While “free college” is technically absent from this bill,make no mistake—that is the goal.

Title IV of the College Affordability Act includes afederal-state partnership called America’s College Promise. This entails agrant program to states to help eliminate the cost of community college whilemaintaining funding for four-year public institutions.

According to the committee’s bill summary, “This programcreates the foundation and makes a down payment toward future investments infour-year debt-free college for students across the country.”

This federal-state partnership would come with a $500million fund to ensure the implementation of best practices in the states, aswell as ensure equity in higher education.

“Free” college, whether for community college students orbachelor’s degree students, will drive up college costs. The only difference isthat taxpayers will get the bill—and if history is any indicator, that billwill increase every year.

Massive Increase in WhoQualifies for Aid

The bill’s proposed changes to the Pell Grant program meanadditional spending and more taxpayer exposure.

The College Affordability Act would permanently index PellGrant funding to inflation, which would increase the maximum Pell awardsignificantly.

Additionally, the bill proposes increasing the number ofeligible semesters to 14, making it possible for graduate students to use PellGrants for tuition.

Generally speaking, graduate students have a much easiertime paying off their loans than bachelor’s degree holders. The federal governmentshould have no role in providing free money to students who would fare well inthe loan market.

The College Affordability Act also proposes lifting the banon allowing incarcerated individuals to qualify for Pell Grants. Allowingprisoners to go to college on the backs of American taxpayers would result inincreased spending while millions of Americans (who do not qualify for grants)struggle to pay off their loans.

Return of Obama-EraRegulations

The College Affordability Act would reinstate the Obama-erawar on for-profit colleges.

Operating under the assumption that the only bad schools inAmerica are for-profit schools, the College Affordability Act would reestablishthe “gainful employment” rule, which singled out proprietary institutions andthreatens their eligibility for funding under Title IV of the Higher EducationAct.

The bill also calls for a new enforcement unit within theDepartment of Education, which would undoubtedly be dedicated to limiting theability of for-profit institutions to operate.

There is no doubt that some for-profit institutions are not high quality enough to make Americans comfortable sending their tax dollars to subsidize them. However, bad institutions exist across the higher education sector, including four-year nonprofit institutions.

If higher education regulations are to exist, they shouldcertainly be sector-neutral in their application.

Wrong Direction forAmerica

This bill comes with a price tag estimated at $400 billion. Yetit opens the door for a massive increase in the federal government’s power toregulate and fund higher education in America.

This will likely result in costs that far surpass the $400billion of taxpayer money initially being spent.

The College Affordability Act includes absolutely noprovision to drive down college costs or insulate taxpayers from students’inability to pay off their loans. In fact, through increased access to income-basedrepayment, taxpayers are even more exposed.

Americans deserve a Higher Education Act reauthorizationthat protects their interests and addresses the root causes of the student debtcrisis. The College Affordability Act does neither.

The post House Democrats’ New Bill Would Drive Up College Costs Even Further appeared first on The Daily Signal.

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