Welch looks to make student aid more flexible

Rep. Peter Welch, D-Vt., joined higher education officials at Community College of Vermont in Montpelier on Monday to announce that he will introduce financial aid legislation. Photo by John Herrick/VTDigger

Rep. Peter Welch, D-Vt., joined higher education officials at Community College of Vermont in Montpelier on Monday to announce that he will introduce financial aid legislation. Photo by John Herrick/VTDigger

Rep. Peter Welch, D-Vt., said Monday he will introduce financial aid legislation designed to broaden the scope of aid for students and reduce the cost to hand it out.

During a news conference at Community College of Vermont in Montpelier on Monday, higher education officials came to support the draft of a bill that intends to address the long-term rising costs of higher education by removing restrictions and reporting requirements on student aid.

Currently, federal financial aid is not available for students enrolled in non-traditional degree programs and the cost to administer aid is raising tuition rates for colleges across the country, Welch said. His student aid package would be more flexible, allowing students to receive aid for accelerated and non-traditional degree programs, he said.

The Flexibility to Innovate for College Affordability Act would expand the eligibility for financial aid for students in accelerated degree programs and reform current reporting regulations that cost institutions money to administer, Welch said. The draft bill has not been introduced.

Welch drafted the bill because growing student debt and higher education expenses are not sustainable, he said.

“The costs are going up and the revenue isn’t. And the federal government is not doing its share. You know, it’s cutting back in supporting investments in the future, education, foremost among them,” Welch said.

Welch joined Vermont’s congressional delegation in voting against the Student Loan Certainty Act this summer, which was later signed into law, because it is only a temporary fix to rising student loan interest rates.

Welch’s bill would increase the number of credit hours that students can earn and still receive federal financial aid, he said. If the new bill were enacted, federal Pell grants and loans could be awarded to students to take courses beyond the current maximum of 12 credit hours per semester, Welch said.

The bill would also set up a Regulatory Reform Task Force to identify the federal regulatory requirements that are placed on financial aid distribution. The task force would make recommendations to Congress on how to reduce the amount of burdensome regulations, Welch said.

Higher education officials said these reporting regulations cut into their own financial aid resources because managing the paperwork is a lot of work for the institutions.

Timothy J. Donovan, chancellor of the Vermont State Colleges, said the reporting requirements create an administrative overhead that does not serve the student’s financial need.

“There are things that add to administrative costs that in the end don’t add any value,” Donovan said.

Welch said that he will be working to get both parties in Congress to support the bill when he gets back to Washington.

College costs have risen 1,120 percent over the past 30 years, with outstanding student debt now at $1.2 trillion, a news release stated.

Comments

  1. Keith Stern :

    I wonder how his bill to make college more affordable is progressing. What a bill that is destined to fail.

  2. Walter Carpenter :

    We are the only nation in the democratic/technological nations which deliberately plunges its students into vast debt for college. The only one. Sadly, this bill will do nothing to change this sad fact.

    • Keith Stern :

      Any alternatives you have? It is a tough situation. Because our elected officials waste such a huge amount of money every year unfortunately there isn’t money for important investments in the country’s future.

      • Walter Carpenter :

        “Because our elected officials waste such a huge amount of money…”

        Well, it is a little more complicated than just our elected officials wasting such huge amounts of money. though I do agree with you that the colossal waste we spend in giving tax loopholes to oil companies, for example, or in financing the military-industrial establishment, and building bridges to nowhere to benefit local contractors and so on, it could have a whole lot more to invest our taxpayer dollars in our infrastructure instead of using them to line Wall Street’s pockets. But we could start with ways to eliminate the need for students to borrow fabulous amounts of debt to go to college or to join the military to pay for college. They do it in other countries at a fraction of the costs than we do here. We certainly could too.

        • Keith Stern :

          Agreed. When Mark Donka ran for Congress last year he told of a bill that he would introduce to lower the cost of education that would be effective. The problem is that colleges and universities don’t worry about their costs as they should because students will get loans and grants so they aren’t as concerned with costs as they would be if they had to pay their way. Mark’s plan was to force institutions of higher learning to reduce their tuition by 10% the first year and the 2nd and possibly more the third year if they wanted their students to be eligible to receive grant money and college loans.

          • Walter Carpenter :

            “The problem is that colleges and universities don’t worry about their costs as they should because students will get loans and grants”

            Agree with this line here, though colleges seem to be concerned about their profit margins. There is no excuse, for example, for college presidents to make more in bonuses and salaries than the president of the United States. Some of these presidents and other higher officials reap in millions in salaries.

            “Mark’s plan was to force institutions of higher learning to reduce their tuition by 10%…”

            Again, I agree in principle. Colleges should reduce their tuition by 10%. They should reduce it more. There is no reason, for instance, that a Vt. student has to pay some $30,000 a year to attend UVM. The real problem, though, which Mark Donka’s suggestions will not solve, is the way in which we fund college.

          • Keith Stern :

            Agreed and that is a separate issue to be addressed as well. Attack a problem from all sides is my motto. Tackling one issue at a time continues the problem far too long and needlessly.

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