Weekly Democratic Address
August 10, 2018
Hi, I’m Congressman Bobby Scott, representative of Virginia’s Third Congressional District, and the Senior Democrat on the House Committee on Education and the Workforce. Today, I want to talk to you about Democrats’ vision for the future of higher education.
In 1965, when President Johnson signed the Higher Education Act, he said that it meant – and I quote – “that a high school senior anywhere in this great land of ours can apply to any college or any university in any of the 50 States and not be turned away because their family is poor.”
But fifty-three years later, the promise of an affordable education is out of reach for millions of students. And in May of this year, America’s outstanding student loan debt surpassed $1.5 trillion. We can and must do better for America’s students.
Last month, I was joined by House Democratic leadership in offering a solution. It’s called the Aim Higher Act.
Under the Aim Higher Act, every student will have the opportunity to earn a quality, debt-free degree or credential that leads to a rewarding career.
Here’s how it works: First, we provide two years of tuition-free community college to every student through a federal-state partnership. We also address the rising cost of public four-year schools by pushing states to reinvest in their public colleges and universities. This will help reverse the persistent trend of states cutting higher education funding and shifting the costs to students and families.
Second, we make student financial aid more generous to keep pace with the rising cost of college, and we allow students to use Pell Grants for quality, short-term programs that provide an accelerated path to the workforce.
And third, for students who do take on debt, we make student loans easier to understand and cheaper to repay. The Aim Higher Act eliminates the confusing web of repayment programs and establishes two straightforward plans with generous plans that help students get out of debt sooner.
In response to the nationwide teacher shortage, we also preserve the popular Public Service Loan Forgiveness program to encourage talented individuals to pursue careers in the classroom.
The Aim Higher Act isn’t just focused on cutting the cost of higher education, it’s focused on improving the quality of higher education. Our proposal cracks down on predatory institutions that waste student and taxpayer money by peddling expensive, low-quality programs. Our veterans – who have earned their GI benefits through sacrifice and service – are frequently victims of fraudulent schools.
Accordingly, we eliminate the perverse incentives that lead for-profit institutions to aggressively recruit student veterans with deceptive marketing and false promises.
Under the Aim Higher Act, all schools will be measured by their students’ success in both completing their college education and entering the workforce.
And finally, the Aim Higher Act gives students the tools they need to graduate on time. We invest in campus child care for student parents, subsidized housing for homeless and foster youth, faculty training for students with disabilities, and community centers to help student veterans transition to civilian life.
Our plan for higher education – in which we invest in students, focus on quality, and crackdown on predatory schools – is dramatically different from the proposal advanced by our Republican colleagues.
Last December, House Republicans supported the PROSPER Act, a bill that actually cuts $15 billion from federal student aid and diverts taxpayer money to low-quality programs. Later that month, President Trump signed a tax bill that primarily benefits corporations and the wealthy. It costs nearly $2 trillion over 10 years.
Policy is defined by priorities. Instead of spending limited resources on a tax cut for those who don’t need it, Democrats believe that we should invest in our children and in the future of our economy. That’s what the Aim Higher Act does.
My district is home to exceptional public colleges, public universities, community colleges and apprenticeship programs. And education and training available at these institutions should be available to all students. And I hope you will join us in pushing for a higher education system that puts the promise of a quality debt-free degree and rewarding career within the reach of all Americans.
Again and again, hard-working families have been given a raw deal by the Republicans in Washington – driving an agenda that hurts students, workers, seniors, people with pre-existing conditions, just about everyone outside of big corporations and the wealthiest 1 percent.
Democrats are fighting to advance an agenda that’s For the People: Lowering your health care costs and prescription drug prices, increasing your pay through strong economic growth by rebuilding America, and cleaning up corruption to make Washington work for you.
Together, we will deliver A Better Deal: Better Jobs, Better Wages and a Better Future for every American, everywhere.