The U.S. higher education system must be revitalized as a whole to be accessible, affordable, and accountable to the students it serves.
Access: Whether it’s completing the myriad of confusing financial aid forms, understanding the potential costs of attending college, or navigating a complex system of grants, loans, and other aid, college is often inaccessible for hundreds of thousands of young Americans, especially students of color or first-generation college attendees.
Affordability: With the rising costs of obtaining a higher education degree and almost 47 million Americans currently struggling with debt, college affordability has become a major issue for many students. Especially as a college degree or credential becomes increasingly critical in the labor market, all young Americans should be able to afford to go to college and improve their lives.
Accountability: Given the immense financial investment required to attend college, students should have a clear picture based on sound and easy to understand data about all of the relevant factors that go into deciding to attend a particular institution.
Tell Congress: Pass #FreeCommunityCollege!
Where We Stand
AYA supports legislation that:
- Immediately cancels any and all forms of student debt currently held by struggling borrowers, especially those with the highest debt-income burden.
- Helps first generation students, low-income families, and non-traditional students attend and complete college or other workforce training programs, including taking courses while in high school.
- Makes the overall costs of college affordable, including tuition, living, and other costs through fully funded grant programs.
- Modernizes and strengthens the financial aid and reporting system to make data about colleges more transparent, accurate about how well institutions are serving their students, and accessible for students and families.
- Strengthens the accountability standards for higher education institutions and provide relief to defrauded borrowers.
Legislation AYA Supports
Student Loan Debt Relief Act
A bicameral bill introduced in the 116th Congress by Senator Warren (D-MA) and House Majority Whip Clyburn (D-SC), the Student Loan Debt Relief Act, would provide forgiveness for 76% of households with student debt. Strongly endorsed by AYA, this proposal would cancel up to $50,000 of outstanding student loan debt for each qualified borrower. Borrowers earning $100,000 or less will be eligible for the full $50,000 in debt cancellation, and the cancellation amount will reduce by $1 for every $3 in income above $100,000. Additionally, the legislation includes other important benefits for borrowers, including the ability to convert private loans into federal loans that qualify for cancellation and the ability to discharge student debt in bankruptcy.
College Transparency Act (CTA)
The College Transparency Act (CTA) is a bipartisan bill that has been introduced in both the House and Senate and would provide better data and information about college. Introduced in the last Congress, it garnered significant bipartisan support from members in both chambers. If passed, the legislation would overturn a ban on a federal data system to track employment and graduation outcomes of college students. The CTA would ensure accurate reporting on student outcomes such as enrollment, completion, and post-college success across colleges and majors. In order to protect student privacy, the bill bans the sale of the data, prohibits access by law enforcement, and limits the use of personally identifiable information.
PROTECT Students Act
Last Congress, Senators Hassan (D-NH) and Durbin (D-IL) introduced the PROTECT Students Act, which if passed into law would protect students and taxpayers from predatory higher education practices. The key provisions of the will would codify and strengthen the borrower defense and gainful employment rules, improve the 90/10 rule and incentive compensation protections, and add new safeguards against the fraudulent for-profit/nonprofit conversions. Additionally, the bill includes provisions that would: “Ensure that individual students, groups of students and state attorneys general can bring suit to enforce certain violations of the HEA. Ensure coordination of for-profit college oversight and enforcement activities between federal agencies, prohibit schools receiving student aid funds from using mandatory pre-dispute arbitration clauses and class action bans, and authorize both an Enforcement Unit and a complaint tracking system at the Department of Education.
College Affordability Act (CAA)
The College Affordability Act (CAA) is the Education and Labor Committee’s comprehensive overhaul of our higher education system that would immediately lower the cost of college for students and families. If enacted, the legislation would lower the cost of college for students and their families by reinvesting in higher education, improve the quality of higher education by holding schools accountable for students’ success, and expand opportunity for students from all backgrounds by providing flexible college options and stronger support to meet students’ individual needs.
What You Can Do for Your Country Act
In the last Congress, Senators Gillibrand (D-NY) and Kaine (D-VA) introduced the “What You Can Do for Your Country Act of 2019”, which would close loopholes and make important updates to the current Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program (PSLF). If passed, the bill would allow all types of federal loans and repayment plans to qualify for forgiveness, require better information and guidance to be provided about the program, allow some forgiveness within 5 years, and would simplify the application and certification program.
College For All Act
Introduced by Senator Sanders and Rep. Jayapal, the College For All Act would make the most substantial investment in higher education in history. The proposal makes public colleges and universities tuition-free for working families, and makes tuition and fees free at four-year public colleges and universities for families making up to $125,000 (nearly 80% of the population), while also making community college tuition- and fee-free for all. Additionally, the bill would double the maximum Pell Grant to $12,990 and allow students to use the grant money to cover living and non-tuition expenses, and expands grant eligibility to Dreamers.
America's College Promise Act
Rereintroduced in 2021 by Senators Baldwin and Murry and House Members Levin and Scott, the America's College Promise Act would create new federal-state partnerships that provide two years of tuition-free access to community or technical college programs and significant tuition and fee grant aid for two years at an eligible four-year year historically Black college or university (HBCU) or minority-serving institution (MSI).
Pell Grant Preservation and Expansion Act
Reintroduced in 2021 by Senators Mazie K. Hirono (D-HI) and Patty Murray (D-WA), chair of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee, and Representatives Mark Pocan (D-WI) and Robert C. “Bobby” Scott (D-VA), the Pell Grant Preservation and Expansion Act, if passed into law, would restore the purchasing power of the federal Pell Grant award by raising the maximum award to $13,000 over five years, index the award to inflation, expand access to part-time students, and increase eligibility to 18 semesters.
College Completion Fund (CCF)
The College Completion Fund Act, introduced by Senator Martin Heinrich (D-NM), if passed into law and funded by Congress, would establish a $62 billion federal fund to invest in evidence-based student support services to help students from diverse backgrounds complete their degrees. Funds would be allocated to states using a formula meant to ensure it reaches the students with the highest needs. States would be required to develop plans that increase completion rates, focusing on support for students from low-income backgrounds and historically underrepresented communities, first-generation college enrollees, parenting students, students with disabilities, and student veterans. AYA has endorsed this bill along with several other organizations.