House Democrats are set to introduce the Aim Higher Act, which would reduce student debt and make community college degrees free through state and federal partnership.
Democrats are proposing to give students the chance to earn a degree without debt, in part by creating a state-federal partnership that calls on states to provide two years of community college tuition-free. In exchange for federal funding, states would have to promise to invest more in higher education — and maintain those investments.
The Democrats’ proposal would expand federal aid to low-income families by increasing Pell Grants and tying them to inflation so that the value doesn’t diminish over time. It would protect a program that erases the remainder of loans of graduates who have worked in public-service fields and expand that initiative to farmers and employees of veteran service organizations. The Democrats’ bill would also strengthen oversight of for-profit colleges. It would increase federal funding for programs aimed at helping vulnerable students, including the homeless, those leaving foster care or students caring for children of their own.
The Aim Higher Act sets up an interesting showdown on higher education
The Republican higher education bill would take $15 billion in aid away from students, which is consistent with the Republican position on higher education. Over the past decade, Republicans have increasingly stressed through legislative proposals their belief that higher education should be limited to the people who can afford to pay for it. (This is also their ideological position on health care and several other issues.) With a national backlash and blue wave brewing against the Republican majority in Congress, legislation such as the Aim Higher Act is more than political messaging. It is a marker on the road.
Should Democrats win back control of the House, they will have the chance to push for the growing in importance Democratic priority of affordable higher education. The Aim Higher Act does have a political messaging component for the midterm election, but it is also Democrats showing voters what they will fight for if they win.
This is a bill that is designed to both inspire voters and throw down the gauntlet on higher education.
Democrats are going to take the fight to Donald Trump.
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