NAICU Washington Update

House Holds Hearing on College Access and Completion for Low-Income Students

May 06, 2015

The House Subcommittee on Higher Education and Workforce Training held a hearing focused on improving college access and completion for low-income and first-generation students. The April 30 hearing marked the second time the House has held a hearing in the 114th Congress regarding federal higher education policy as the committee continues to work towards reauthorization of the Higher Education Act.

The hearing featured testimony from four witnesses representing a wide swath of the higher education community. The witnesses focused primarily on efforts being undertaken at the institutional level to increase access, affordability, and completion for low-income students. Specific programs, like early college high school initiatives at the Dallas County Community College District and UCLA’s Academic Advancement Program (AAP), drew particular praise from lawmakers on the panel as particularly innovative practices that should be emulated at other institutions as a means to attract and retain low-income students.

Each of the witnesses stressed the value of a college education and the importance of the federal government continuing to invest in American college students through student financial aid programs. Significant portions of the testimony, and ensuing questions, focused on the need to close the gaps in higher education attainment as a means of maintaining national economic competitiveness. Universally, the panelists agreed that institutions are continuing to develop best-practices to help low-income students apply, enroll, and graduate from American colleges and universities.

Committee Republicans highlighted the importance of streamlining regulatory requirements from the Department of Education as a means to free up resources that institutions could use to recruit and retain low-income students. Committee Democrats focused mainly on the efforts of minority-serving institutions and nontraditional education offerings—such as competency-based credit models—as beneficial steps in lowering college costs and improving graduation rates.

Additional information, including an archived webcast of the hearing, full witness testimony, and a copy of Chairwoman Virginia Foxx’s (R-VA) opening statement can be found on the Education and the Workforce Committee’s website.

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