You don’t have to look far on campus to find students quietly studying for midterm exams on the eve of their annual spring break next week.
As students work hard to establish their futures, federal legislation is being developed that could affect loan, financial aid and loan forgiveness programs that many of our students rely upon to earn their education. It is imperative Congress maintain support for these programs.
CU President Bruce Benson, my fellow CU chancellors and I have co-signed letters advocating continued federal backing for these vital programs. We sent them to Colorado’s delegation in the U.S. House of Representatives and also to a key Senate committee, as Congress works to reauthorize the Higher Education Act (HEA).
The HEA is a set of laws overseeing the relationship between the federal government and higher education, including federal investment in the nation’s future skilled and knowledge-driven workforce through loans, grants and public service loan forgiveness.
In our letters we emphasized that shrinking federal student aid programs will make college more expensive for students and families in Colorado and throughout the United States. We encouraged Congress to put students first.
The university is dedicated to ensuring college is accessible and affordable for all students, which is why CU Boulder invested $142 million in institutional financial aid last year, compared to $66 million in federal grant aid.
At CU Boulder we have worked hard, with the full support of our Board of Regents and President Benson, to lower costs for our students.
Our Be Boulder Pact with students and their families includes a four-year-tuition guarantee and elimination, beginning next fall, of $8.4 million annually in course fees.
The Be Boulder Pact also supports our student leaders as they pursue online, openly-licensed textbooks and learning materials, to possibly further reduce costs for students. Finally, it funds a new CU Boulder Impact Scholarship that recognizes students for persistence during tough socioeconomic circumstances. We’re proud at CU Boulder that we have reduced student debt by 14.5 percent from 2013 to 2016, bucking the national trend of rising student debt.
All of these initiatives together show our commitment to affordability for our students. The federal government is a key partner in our efforts to ensure public higher education remains affordable and accessible for all students.
We are particularly concerned by an initial bill awaiting a vote in the House of Representatives that runs counter to these cost-saving measures for our students, their futures and their families.
The U.S. House version of the HEA reauthorization called the PROSPER Act (Promoting Real Opportunity, Success and Prosperity through Education Reform) would cut $14.6 billion in student aid over 10 years, as estimated by the Congressional Budget Office.
Many of the proposals in the PROSPER Act would roll back essential student aid for hardworking undergraduate students who demonstrate the greatest financial need and who work hard to give back to their community, as well as for graduate and professional students, who already receive limited federal support.
We are hopeful the Senate may introduce a version of the bill that is more favorable to our students and the institution. As the members of the U.S. Senate education committee begin writing their version of the bill, we will continue to weigh in on the critical need to support these programs for our students and graduates.
This is why I am joining my colleagues and peers in urging that the HEA reauthorization not only preserve but strengthen federal student aid programs.
Our students work hard to graduate in a timely manner with as little debt as possible so they are in position to lead, innovate and impact humanity. Supporting them is our moral imperative.
Philip P. DiStefano,