CCRC Senior Research Associate and Teachers College Assistant Professor of Economics and Education Judith Scott-Clayton testified before the U.S. Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, & Pensions (HELP) on Wednesday, June 3. The topic of the full committee hearing is "Reauthorizing the Higher Education Act: Ensuring College Affordability." Elizabeth Akers, fellow at the Brookings Institution's Brown Center on Education Policy; Michael Mitchell, policy analyst at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities; F. King Alexander, president and chancellor of Louisiana State University; and James Kennedy, associate vice president for university student services and systems at Indiana University also spoke on the panel.
According to Scott-Clayton:
The real college affordability crisis is not that we're spending too much on college and saddling graduates with too much debt. The true crisis is that federal student aid has become more essential for more students than ever before, but the complexity of the system is undermining its effectiveness. ... Unfortunately, the burdens of complexity and confusion fall most heavily on the very students who need aid the most—low-income students, minorities, and first-generation college goers, who are the least likely to have a family member, friend, or counselor who can guide them through their options and help them fill out the FAFSA. Too many of these students fall off the path to college early, not because they ever actively decide that it's not worth it, but because they simply assume that they don't have a choice.
Scott-Clayton's recommendations include simplifying the unnecessarily complex Pell eligibility formula and eliminating the FAFSA, and streamlining federal student loans into a single program with income-based repayment.
For more information and to watch a video of the proceedings, visit the Senate HELP committee website.