Washington, D.C. — Seeking to make higher education more affordable and accessible for students and to help make postsecondary education achievable for more Americans, U.S. Senators Susan Collins (R-ME) and Jack Reed (D-RI) introduced the Partnerships for Affordability and Student Success (PASS) Act. This bipartisan bill would amend the Higher Education Act of 1965 to reestablish a federal-state partnership for increasing need-based aid, provide grants to institutions to improve student outcomes and reduce college costs, and build public accountability for institutions of higher learning.
“Education plays a vital role in opening the doors of opportunity to all Americans, but the rising cost of a college education threatens to close those doors to many families across the country,” said Senator Collins. “This bipartisan bill would help alleviate such financial strains by creating a federal-state partnership program to improve state educational attainment, college access, affordability, and completion. It would also increase need-based financial aid.”
“College is expensive. Today, too many hard-working young people and their families are falling behind as they try to pay for their degrees that were supposed to help them get ahead. The PASS Act will help make a college degree more affordable and accessible by reinvigorating the federal-state partnership for higher education with an emphasis on need-based grant aid,” said Senator Reed. “During the sixties and seventies, a combination of low in-state tuition and federal and state need-based grants meant students did not have to mortgage their future to earn a college degree. That is not true today. Over 43 million Americans now owe more than $1.5 trillion in student loans. Today’s students should have the same opportunity as previous generations.”
According to the latest State Higher Education Finance report published by the State Higher Education Executive Officers, public colleges and universities have become more reliant on tuition dollars for their operations. Today, in 27 states, tuition accounts for more than half of all higher education revenue. Moreover, the only federal-state partnership program for need-based financial aid — the Leveraging Educational Assistance Partnership (LEAP) program — has not received appropriations since fiscal year 2010.
Under the PASS Act, in exchange for new federal investment, states must make a commitment to maintain their investment in higher education and have a comprehensive plan for higher education with measurable goals for access, affordability, and student outcomes. At least half of the funding must be dedicated to need-based student financial aid. States also have the option of awarding grants to colleges and universities or partnerships between institutions of higher education and non-profit organizations to improve student outcomes, including enrollment, completion, and employment, and to develop innovative methods for reducing college costs.
The PASS Act is supported by the National Association of State Student Grant and Aid Programs, the Center for Law and Social Policy, the Institute for Higher Education Policy, the Association of Community College Trustees, and the National Skills Coalition.