Report Highlights Rising Cost of College

November 8, 2017

A report released by Democratic members of the Joint Economic Committee highlights causes of the increasing cost of college for many Americans. It identifies, among those, declining state support for public institutions, incentives for institutions at odds with keeping programs affordable, and failures in the regulatory system to hold programs failing students accountable.

The report acknowledges that taking on debt in pursuit of a college degree is still a sound financial decision for the average graduate. But it says that for students who take on debt and don't complete a degree, even small amounts of student loan debt become hard to pay off -- a fact that's become an increasingly recognized by students' advocates and academics who study higher ed. New federal data released last month reconfirmed that borrowers who drop out of college in particular are struggling to repay their loans.

The report suggests several approaches for Congress to address college affordability, including new incentives for state investment in higher education and better information for students choosing a college. It also suggests expanding "low-cost, high-quality pathways" that would allow students to avoid taking on significant debt. Using federal aid programs on cheaper, short-term alternatives for postsecondary education has become increasingly popular among both parties in Congress.

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