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House Subcommittee Holds Hearing on College Costs

December 01, 2011

Administration Plans Initiatives Aimed at Curbing Tuition

​Higher education leaders and experts on its cost and affordability testified yesterday before a House panel on what colleges and universities are currently doing—and what they can do—to make college more affordable for students and families.

Appearing before the House Subcommittee on Higher Education and Workforce Training were Jane Wellman, founder and executive director of the Delta Project; Ronald Manahan, president of Grace College and Seminary (IN); Jamie Merisotis, president of Lumina Foundation; and Tim Foster, president of Colorado Mesa University.

As The Chronicle of Higher Education pointed out this morning, although committee members disagreed over whether President Obama’s initiatives to help students pay for college have been effective, the primary focus of the hearing was a discussion about current initiatives to hold down the cost of higher education. Inside Higher Ed said members seemed especially intrigued by the three-year degree offered by Grace College. Legislators such as Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN) have long championed the three-year option, which he discussed at ACE's Annual Meeting in 2009.

The administration also chimed in on the college cost discussion this week. In a speech to the Federal Student Aid conference in Las Vegas Monday, Education Secretary Arne Duncan depicted rising prices as a critical problem and called on the higher education community to “think more creatively and with much greater urgency” about college costs.

He also described Education Department plans to replace the expiring Perkins Loan Program with campus-based loans awarded in part on Pell Grant recipient graduation rates; incentive grants rewarding states and institutions for increasing completion rates and closing achievement gaps; and a fund to support innovative programs that hold down tuition.

However, as ACE Senior Vice President Terry Hartle told The New York Times after the secretary’s remarks, “The federal government can ease the burden of tuition increases with financial aid, but there is no mechanism for it to force the states to maintain funding for higher ed…and what legislators see is that tuition goes up and enrollment stays high.”

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