On October 15, 2019, the U.S. House Committee on Education and Labor, led by Chairperson Bobby Scott (D-VA), introduced a comprehensive bill to reauthorize the Higher Education Act (HEA), entitled the College Affordability Act (CAA). The CAA contains a number of proposals aimed at reshaping federal higher education policy and, in the words of our president, Michelle Asha Cooper, PhD, we “welcome the momentum sparked by [a proposal that] recognizes the diversity of today’s students and supports their access to and success in college.”
Higher education provides students with the opportunity to secure strong futures for themselves, and benefits their families, their communities, and our country as a whole. Postsecondary education also has the potential to promote social mobility for students who have been historically left behind, especially low-income students and students of color. For today’s higher education system to meet the needs of today’s students and fulfill its promise as a pathway toward economic freedom, lawmakers must tackle longstanding barriers to college access and success.
The Higher Education Act (HEA), the primary federal law governing postsecondary education, was last reauthorized in 2008. More than one decade later, our country needs an HEA that thoroughly addresses college affordability, promotes transparency, and fosters college completion. It is past time to intensify efforts that will generate more equitable outcomes for low-income students and students of color.
As Congress works to modernize the HEA, we call on lawmakers to enact policy that: (1) strengthen need-based financial aid; (2) promote the use of high-quality data to advance transparency, encourage evidence-based decision-making, and improve student outcomes; (3) support postsecondary opportunities for justice-involved students; and (4) foster increased college access and completion of underrepresented students and students who pause their studies or stop-out.