Higher Education Act
Financial aid is an important issue for APSCU and its member institutions because of the vital role it plays in opening the doors of education for the students we serve. Our primary focus is on policies that particularly assist low-income students and families who would not have the opportunity to pursue a postsecondary education without federal student aid. The upcoming reauthorization of the Higher Education Act gives us an opportunity to revisit student aid issues, among others, and focus our efforts on ensuring access for the students with the most need. APSCU has created a Reauthorization Task Force charged with rethinking the student aid programs, including maintaining access for students while simplifying the process and ensuring success.
In early March, APSCU released its white paper recommending policy changes to address these three main goals: affordability and addressing the skills gap; simplification; and accountability and transparency. Within these goals, we have suggested changes to support the realization of each. The proposed changes range from creating an entirely new institutional accountability system focused on outcomes to ensuring that students receive good and comprehensive information, to financial aid that is more efficient and is directed to those with the greatest need, to a student loan repayment system that embraces every student's individual ability to repay.
These goals are particularly critical as we strive to meet the challenge of America leading the world in college educated citizens by 2020. They are also important in addressing the emerging skills gap our country is facing, and in helping students make wise education choices in order to meet their current postsecondary and future employment objectives.
All students would benefit from a less confusing array of programs. The number of grant and loan programs, the changing terms and conditions associated with them, and the multitude of deadlines and forms all serve to intimidate and confound. To that end, we suggest a more streamlined and understandable student aid system that continues to support access for all students.
A more robust Pell Grant program will go a long way in helping students in their pursuit of a postsecondary education and a simplified student loand program will help students better understand amounts available, eligibility, and repayment obligations. In addition, the growing concern with respect to debt levels makes consideration of a simplified repayment process via a payroll deduction system an interesting concept.
Most importantly, we need to answer the question that students and taxpayers are now asking with increasing urgency: What are we getting for our money? Simply promoting access, which is critically important, is no longer enough. Since the last reauthorization of the HEA, concerns have escalated about the increasing cost of higher education, debt that students are taking on to pay for it, inadequate completion rates, and the return on investment for the student and the taxpayer. Establishing accountability for the resources expended on higher education that looks at metrics which are adjusted for the risk-level of students served will increase accountability while promoting the access we need to reach the country's goals for educational attainment.
PSCUs open doors to many of the 13 million unemployed and 90 million underemployed Americans by providing a skills-based education. To remain competitive over the next decade, we must identify between 8 and 23 million new workers with postsecondary skills. PSCUs are a necessary part of that solution, having produced over 800,000 degrees last year alone.