Washington Update

Senators Introduce Legislation to Lower College Costs

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Three Democratic Senators have introduced a bill they say will spur colleges to “innovate to reduce costs.” The College Affordability and Innovation Act of 2014 was introduced on January 29 by Chris Murphy (D-CT), Brian Schatz (D-HI) and Patty Murray (D-WA).

The legislation would do four specific things, according to a press release from Murphy’s office:

  • Create a new evidence-based competitive pilot program to encourage innovative ideas that may reduce the cost of a college education.
  • Rigorously evaluate these innovations.
  • Create a new commission to set out minimum accountability standards for any institution that receives federal funding.
  • Provide funding awards to institutions that perform best on these measures.

“[T]he message is clear,” Murphy said in a statement. “We need college administrators to wake up every day thinking about how they’re going to bring down the cost of college for students.”

College costs are at their highest levels ever and continue to rise. The press release noted that there are few incentives for colleges to test ideas that may lead to lower college costs. The bill’s evidence-based pilot program would both authorize and fund pilot projects that encourage institutions to design plans that offer high-quality education, lower costs and shorter time spans in which to earn a degree. The commission set up under the legislation would focus on standards evaluating access for low- and middle-income students, affordability and value.

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