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On Wednesday, July 18, the House Committee on Education and the Workforce Subcommittee on Higher Education and Workforce Training explored the challenges facing public institutions during a hearing titled, “Keeping College Within Reach: Exploring State Efforts to Curb Costs.” The following day, the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions hearing on “Making College Affordability a Priority: Promising Practices and Strategies” featured four college and university presidents and Donald Heller, Dean of the College of Education at Michigan State University.

“There is no doubt that college has become too expensive, and it shows no signs of getting cheaper anytime soon,” said Senator Mike Enzi (R-Wyo.), ranking member on the committee. “If this trend does not change, it will be almost impossible for us to achieve the President’s recent challenge to again become first in the world in college graduates.”

Enzi also took the opportunity to address concerns related to federal student aid. “Maintaining the Pell Grant program in the short-term has come at the expense of other low- and middle-income students,” he said. “We must address the long-term sustainability of Pell Grant sooner, rather than later, as we discuss college affordability.”

Heller reminded the Senate Committee about the difference between the sticker price and net price and focused concerns on students’ inability to accurately calculate and understand the true net price they would face. “The world of higher education finance is a complex and mysterious place, particularly for these low- and moderate-income students, and for those who are the first in their family to attend college,” testified Heller.

In her opening remarks during the House Subcommittee on Higher Education and Workforce Training hearing, Subcommittee Chairwoman Virginia Foxx (R-NC) stated, “Clearly there is a problem that needs to be addressed, but it cannot be solved solely at the federal level with Washington bureaucrats acting as master puppeteers…we need to look to states and postsecondary institutions for creative solutions to the college cost conundrum.”

These hearings were part of what is expected to be a series examining college affordability, access, and completion.

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Liz Clark

Vice President, Policy and Research

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