Significant improvements on the quality of higher education, lowering college costs, and expanding student opportunities are all important elements in the College Affordability Act, supported by U.S. Rep. Jahana Hayes.
Earlier this week, the House Committee on Education and Labor released the act, a bill that reauthorizes the Higher Education Act. The 15 bills within the act contain a once-a-decade comprehensive overhaul of the U.S.’s higher education system.
Hayes said it was a deeply gratifying experience to be a part of the reforms that she had desperately needed as a student.
“I’m proud that this bill embraces and reflects my priorities in Congress - the College Affordability Act expands Pell [Grants], incentivizes free community college, and drives states to reinvest in their public institutions. I look forward to considering this legislation in committee and then on the floor of the House of Representatives.”
The act includes a legislation that authorizes two grant programs to strengthen the recruitment pipeline and teacher training programs. It would allow historically black colleges and universities and Hispanic-serving institutions to apply for funds to establish or revamp programs to recruit and retain diverse teachers.
Another piece of legislation, the Jumpstart on College Act, would award grants to partnerships between institutions of higher learning and local education associations to assist with dual enrollment and early college high school programs for low-income and other underrepresented demographics.
Additionally, several bills would serve to assist with providing grant aid to students interested in serving high-needs and in-demand fields such as mathematics, science, and special education; restore eligibility for those incarcerated in state or federal facilities; and different levels of cost assistance.
Hayes, along with Rep. Mark Takano of California, also introduced the Teacher Debt Relief Act, which would incentivize the recruitment and retention of teachers by streamlining existing student debt relief and loan forgiveness programs.
Under federal law, educators are eligible for some debt relief after five years of service. However, the same law forbids simultaneous enrollment in the general Public Loan Service Forgiveness program. This means that teachers are forced to work an additional 10 years in order to qualify for full relief.
The new law would fix this oversight by allowing teachers to enroll in both programs concurrently, making paying off debt and staying in the classroom a more achievable reality.
Takano, a former public school teacher, said it was the least they could do to help relieve the burden of student loans in exchange for their public service. “This legislation will make it easier for teachers to pursue a career in education by making student loan debt relief more attainable.”
As an educator who relied on student loans, Hayes said she could not agree more.
“I know how crushing a burden it can be to worry about making loan payments while on a teacher’s salary. Our federal laws should be incentivizing people to become and remain teachers, not creating undue and duplicative burdens that will keep them out of the classroom.”
Contact Catherine Shen at 860-801-5093 or firstname.lastname@example.org