This week, United States Representative Jeff Denham supported four House passed bills that will go towards making higher education a more accessible and affordable goal for young students across the nation.
“Higher education is one of the key components to achieving the American dream,” said Rep. Denham. “It’s crucial that we modernize post-secondary education by making it as accessible and affordable as possible for students in the Central Valley and across the country.”
The four bills included the Student and Tax Family Simplification Act, the Strengthening Transparency in Higher Education Act, the Advancing Competency-Based Education Demonstration Project Act, and the Empowering Students through Enhanced Financial Counseling Act. If passed, these bills will make a student’s path towards achieving a higher education less costly and easier to understand.
“I’m hoping this legislation will empower their efforts and that these bills will help hardworking families make smart decisions about higher education so students aren’t saddled with unworkable debt,” said Rep. Denham.
The Student and Family Tax Simplification Act aims to consolidate four different tax benefits for higher education into a clearer and more beneficial American Opportunity Tax Credit. This new credit will develop from the combination of the Hope Scholarship Credit, the Lifetime Learning Credit, the college tuition deduction, and the current American Opportunity Tax Credit. By consolidating these four credits into one, advocates of the bill hope to help students and parents determine the most cost effective way to afford a college education.
The bill will make possible a permanent 100 percent tax credit for the first $2,000 of certain higher education expenses, and a 25 percent tax credit for the following $2,000 of expenses with a maximum credit of $2,500. In addition, the first $1,500 of the credit will be made refundable as a way to ensure that students can access the benefit regardless of tax liability. Proponents anticipate that this credit will aid students and parents financially in these hard economic times.
The Strengthening Transparency in Higher Education Act will ensure that students get the information they need when looking to pursue a higher education. Currently, students are either bombarded with conflicting information regarding colleges and universities or not given the crucial information they need. Oftentimes, the data that is available misrepresents a majority of students in postsecondary education systems and it is this information inconsistency that leaves students confused.
If passed, The Strengthening Transparency in Higher Education Act will require the secretary of education to create a consumer tested College Dashboard. This tool will present the information that students need, including the completion rates of all students and consistent higher education data. A main component of this bill is to make certain that all students know that this information is available to them when comparing different education options.
The Advancing Competency-Based Education Demonstration Project Act was created in hopes of providing students with educational opportunities that better tailor to their specific personal and financial needs. The bill will also give the secretary of education the authority to abandon existing statutory and regulatory requirements, roadblocks considered to be a determent on the route to a more effective post secondary education.
This bill will require that the secretary of education administer competency-based education demonstration projects to measure students’ actual learning. These projects will replace the traditionally used “credit hours”, which consider the hours a student spends in class as a measurement of learning, to better determine student progress and distribute student aid. If passed, this bill will consider students’ personal and financial needs in order to give them a higher quality of education.
The Empowering Students through Enhanced Financial Counseling Act will provide students and parents financial literary assistance. Currently, many students are not able to make sound financial choices when they are presented with complicated loan and grant programs. With over 40 percent of students claiming they never received financial counseling in a recent survey, this counseling will educate students in order to make smart financial decisions.
If approved, this bill will guarantee interactive counseling each year that will tailor to each borrower’s individual financial circumstances. These services will raise students’ and parents’ awareness regarding their financial obligations and will require each borrower’s consent each year before they receive their federal student loans. A portion of the bill is also dedicated to informing low income students about the Pell Grant Program.
Now that these four bills have passed the House, they will move on to be considered by the Senate. If the Senate and House are able to agree on identical legislations, the bills will then be presented to the President for signing. Denham hopes that these bills will be passed in order to alleviate the confusion and amount of student debt that students face when pursuing a higher education.
“It’s clear that attaining a post-secondary degree means far greater opportunities for our young people,” concluded Rep. Denham. “The success of our economy depends on the achievements of our children and grandchildren, but higher education costs continue to skyrocket.”