The College Opportunity and Affordability Act: Why It’s Good News

The U.S. House of Representatives decided yesterday to address the soaring price of college tuition and remove other obstacles that make it harder for qualified students to go to college. The bill they passed, the College Opportunity and Affordability Act (H.R. 4137), promises to reform and strengthen the university programs to ensure that they operate in the best interests of students and families.

It is no secret that tuition costs have steadily increased over the past few years, far surpassing the rate of inflation. With masses of students graduating with enormous debt, Congress hopes to alleviate the problem by encouraging colleges to rein in price increases, ensuring that states maintain their higher education funding, and providing students and parents with more information about tuition and college fees. Even better, the bill demands greater disclosure and protections on private student loans.

Other notable goals of the bill include:

  • Streamline the federal student financial aid application process
  • Make textbook costs more manageable for students
  • Allow students to receive year-round Pell Grant scholarships
  • Strengthen college readiness programs
  • Increase college aid and support programs for veterans and military families
  • Improve safety on college campuses

What's best about the bill is that it targets middle class families in ways that previous bills did not. While the federal government has sought many times to increase access for very low income families, middle class students were often left shouldering the leftover tuition. Now it seems that all students are gaining the benefits.

Personally, I think the commitment to greater education regarding student loans is a long overdue change. Even worse than skyrocketing tuition are the ultimate interest payments that later gouge graduates. And with student loans impossible to escape through bankruptcy, early education on smart borrowing (and, more importantly, other financial aid programs) pays off.

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