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Welch Unveils College Affordability Agenda at UVM Roundtable with Parents and Students

September 1, 2015
Press Release

BURLINGTON, Vt.— As the fall semester gets underway at colleges and universities across the state, Rep. Peter Welch (D-VT) today convened a roundtable at the University of Vermont with students, recent graduates, and parents to learn about the challenges they face in financing a college education. Welch also outlined his legislative agenda to make higher education more affordable and accessible.

“Higher education is the gateway to America's middle class, yet an affordable college degree is increasingly out of reach for struggling families,” Congressman Welch said. “Steep tuition increases are requiring students and parents to take out more loans at higher costs while just qualifying for a loan can be a bureaucratic nightmare.  And too many graduating students are entering the work force saddled with debt equivalent to that of a home mortgage.”

Rep. Welch highlighted his legislative agenda to make higher education more affordable and accessible.

1)      Simplify the Student Loan Application Process

Completing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FASFA), with 105 questions and 88 pages of instructions, can be a bureaucratic nightmare for parents and students. Rep. Welch introduced the Student Financial Aid Simplification Act (H.R. 3265) which will reduce the burden on applicants by requiring the Secretary of Education to use prior year tax filings from the IRS for each applicant.

2)      Reduce Cost of Degrees through Innovation while Cutting Regulatory Costs to Colleges

Rep. Welch introduced the Flexibility to Innovate for College Affordability Act (H.R. 3372) which will give colleges and universities greater flexibility to create innovative degree programs that reduce costs for students through accelerated degree completion, competency based learning, prior learning demonstration, and dual enrollment programs. The legislation also creates the Regulatory Reform Task Force to identify and reduce burdensome federal regulatory requirements that increase the operating costs of colleges and universities

3)      Fully Fund the Pell Grant Program

The Pell Grant Program makes college accessible for 9 million Americans each year and helps level the playing field for low-income families that want to send students to high-ranking colleges.  Pell Grants are especially vital for low-income students, and the program is key to their graduation prospects and their future economic success. For many students, Pell Grants are the primary form of financial aid used to pay tuition expenses.

4)      Allow Borrowers to Refinance Student Loans

Unlike home mortgages, student loan borrowers are unable to refinance their loans.  Rep. Welch is a cosponsor of the Bank On Students Emergency Loan Refinancing Act (H.R. 1434), which would allow individual borrowers to refinance their student loans at a rate of 3.86 percent, the same rate at which banks borrow from the Federal Reserve.  Welch is also a cosponsor of the Student Loan Refinancing Act (H.R. 649) which would allow individuals to refinance their loans more than once. 

“The issue of college affordability is one that Congressman Welch and VSAC have worked closely together on for the past six years,” said Scott Giles, president and CEO of VSAC. “For too many low- and middle-income Vermonters, cost is a barrier to getting the education and training they will need to succeed in today’s economy. We are grateful for Congressman Welch’s leadership on this critical issue.”

Student loan debt nationally is an estimated $1.3 trillion, $864 billion of which is backed by the federal government. In Vermont, 64 percent of Vermont graduates have student loan debt of an average of $27,300 each.