Solutions to Increase College Enrollment Depend on Congress
Early July, Democrats, Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) and Rep. Bobby Scott (D-VA) introduced, in their respected chambers, America’s College Promise Act of 2015, President Obama’s vision of two years free college for eligible students.
The bill unfortunately lacks Republican supporters and as such many expect it to fail. Even Senate Republicans from Tennessee, who support their state program that inspired the America’s College Promise Act, disagree with the Federal version of the program.
Moreover, the chairman of the House Education & Workforce Committee, Rep John Kline, R-Minn was quoted, “Unless the president has a responsible plan to meet our existing commitments, he shouldn’t be making new promises the American people can’t afford.
That said recent recommendations from the Gates Foundation once again highlight the billions of untapped money in Federal grants due to families shying away from using FAFSA, an application used to determine eligibility for federal, state, and other resources to help pay for higher education. The foundations recommendations… simplify the FAFSA applicaiton form.
The recommendations comes backed by a study from Gianna Sen-Gupta in March, 2015, which revealed that $2.9 billion in Pell Grants went unused during the 2013-2014 academic year due to 47% of high school graduates who didn’t file for FAFSA. That amount could have funded 2 million more student’s.
Among the reasons FAFSA applications fail to be filed, according to the study, are assumptions and misconceptions from students who believe they are ineligible due to their family’s income, the affordability of paying the remaining tuition or that the application is time-consuming and confusing.
The study’s recommendation is, again, simplify the FAFSA application in terms the students can understand. Congress has stayed in step with this finding and with bipartisan support. Senate bill 108 authored by Tennessee Sen. Lamar Alexander and Colorado Sen. Michael Bennett is intended to simplify the application to two questions, “How many people are in your family” and “How much did you make two years ago?” Currently the bill is in committee.
With an increase need to fill upcoming jobs which require college degree or certifications, solutions that dramatically increases college enrollment and degree or certification attainment are a matter of immediate rather than delayed necessity.
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