Column by Bob Goodlatte
For many students and families, there is the promise of higher education. But for far too many others, the burden of tuition costs is seemingly insurmountable. In Virginia, undergraduate students are paying nearly 7 percent more in tuition and fees than they did last year. The skyrocketing cost of higher education is a dangerous trend given the often integral role it plays in attaining the American dream and maintaining our competitiveness in a changing global economy.
Just a few weeks ago, the House of Representatives passed the bipartisan College Opportunity and Affordability Act to ensure access, accountability, affordability and quality in higher education. Specifically, this legislation is designed to empower consumers with more disclosure of college costs, financial aid and accreditation while updating programs to better meet the needs of changing student populations and strengthening financial aid opportunities.
This important legislation contains a number of key reforms to the Pell Grant program, including added flexibility through year-round Pell Grants for students who wish to complete their education more quickly while also including sensible limitations on the amount of time students can receive federal Pell Grant funds to encourage students to make progress and to more effectively spend taxpayer dollars.
The College Opportunity and Affordability Act also streamlines and improves access to information about federal financial-aid programs. The legislation requires that the Department of Education provide easier access to its student financial assistance websites and share information about financial aid opportunities available through other federal agencies.
In addition to the increased cost of college tuition, students and families often struggle to pay for the expensive textbooks required for classes. Students spend an average of $900 a year on textbooks — an amount equal to 20 percent of tuition at an average university and half of tuition at a community college. The College Opportunity and Affordability Act calls for greater transparency and disclosure to help students and schools keep textbooks accessible and affordable.
Finally, this legislation includes important reforms to ensure our higher education system can help meet our growing international competitiveness challenges. Specifically, the College Opportunity and Affordability Act refocuses existing federal resources to help increase the number of math, science and foreign-language teachers and professionals.
One of the most important gifts we can give to our children and grandchildren is a quality education, because education is the key that unlocks the door to opportunity. With so much developing in the realm of higher education here in Virginia and across the country, I will continue to work in Congress to pass legislation like the College Opportunity and Affordability Act, which will expand college access for current and future students, thereby better preparing the next generation for an increasingly competitive global economy.
Bob Goodlatte represents Virginia’s Sixth Congressional District in the United States Congress. Contact him at www.house.gov/goodlatte/emailbob.htm.