A new bill introduced in Washington D.C., the Aim Higher Act, proposes debt-free college for students.
House Democrats unveiled their higher education bill on Tuesday. Named the Aim Higher Act, the bill requires states to provide debt-free college and to invest more money in higher education.
This bill contrasts the Republican bill aimed at reauthorizing the Higher Education Act. The Higher Education Act, which is supposed to be reauthorized every five years, hasn’t been updated in over a decade. This is largely due to the fact that Congressional members from both parties seem unwilling to compromise, according to The Washington Post.
The Aim Higher Act proposes a partnership between the states and the federal government. States would have to provide two years of free community college and invest money in higher education in exchange for federal funding. But this is a deal that even the most progressive states are unlikely to accept, according to the Post.
Robert Kelchen, the assistant professor of higher education at Seton Hall University, told the Post that state legislators tend to move money away from higher education to areas where spending is mandatory. Kelchen says the Democrats’ bill is unlikely to make it through Congress and is simply meant to send a message to their base.
When the Republicans introduced the PROSPER ACT toward the end of 2017, it was met with considerable opposition from higher education advocates. The bill eliminates certain student aid programs and gets rid of many restrictions on for-profit colleges, like the 90/10 rule, which caps private for-profit colleges’ funding from federal aid at 90 percent.
Overall, the Congressional Budget Office calculated that the PROSPER Act would cause schools to lose $15 billion in federal funding over the next 10 years.
Rep. Robert Scott released a statement, calling the Democrats’ bill “…a serious and comprehensive proposal to give every student the opportunity to earn a debt-free degree or credential.”
In addition to free community college, the bill would increase funding for Pell Grants. It also protects the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program (PSLF), which the PROSPER Act would have eliminated. The Aim Higher Act would also aim to tighten restrictions on for-profit colleges.
It remains to be seen what will happen in higher education as support for the Republicans’ bill appears to have dwindled in recent months. Sen. Lamar Alexander told the Post that he doesn’t expect the Senate education committee to produce a bill reauthorizing the Higher Education Act during this Congress.