Center for American Progress Announces College for All Plan to Eliminate Barriers to Higher Education, Ensure U.S. Can Achieve Inclusive Prosperity and Economic Growth

Penn State campus

Students walk near Old Main on the Penn State University campus.  SOURCE: AP/Gene J. Puskar

Washington D.C. —(ENEWSPF)–February 19, 2015.  As part of a strategy to ensure that the United States can achieve inclusive prosperity and broad-based economic growth, the country must take bold steps to eliminate barriers to higher education and ensure that a college degree remains within reach for all students. College for All, a new plan announced today by the Center for American Progress, is the first in a series of student-centric recommendations that will address how to eliminate barriers to postsecondary education, how the federal government could cover the cost, and how repayment terms would be structured. College for All is outlined in a new brief co-authored by CAP Executive Vice President for Policy Carmel Martin and Vice President of Postsecondary Education David A. Bergeron.

“The current financial aid system does not reflect the needs of a 21st century economy,” said Martin. “Postsecondary education is becoming more and more of a necessity not a luxury for success in the global economy. And moving back to first in the world in terms of college graduates is a necessity for the United States’ economic growth. We need to think outside the box and revamp our system for financing college access and completion so that no student in America doubts their ability to afford the education they need for success.”

“While higher education remains critically important, it remains financially out of reach for far too many American families today. Not only does the cost of college exceed the means of many middle-class families today, but the system of financial aid can also seem difficult to navigate at times,” said Bergeron. “College for All represents a significant step toward improving college-attainment among students from low- and moderate-income families, while simplifying the country’s overall financial aid system.”

College for All would provide every high school graduate financial support at a level up to the tuition and fees at a public four-year college or university, so that all high school graduates and their families know that they can afford college. Students would repay much of the aid provided by the federal government, but repayment would depend on the graduate’s income and would be streamlined into a single payment. CAP’s College for All proposal expands on a provision included in a recent report from the Commission on Inclusive Prosperity, or IPC, a transatlantic board convened by CAP, composed of high-level American and international policymakers, economists, business leaders, and labor representatives, and focused on finding ways to expand the middle class through inclusive economic growth. The IPC’s report calls for aggressive action to expand postsecondary education opportunities for all Americans. Today’s report continues the work started in IPC not just to improve college accessibility and affordability, but to meet the United States’ future economic needs.

Projections show that by 2020, 65 percent of all jobs will require bachelor’s or associate’s degrees, but the current federal and states systems of financial support for postsecondary education are not on track to meet this economic need; rates of postsecondary education among young adults have decreased from the previous generation. An overly complex system of financial aid, among other barriers, bars many low- and middle-income students from two or four year postsecondary education programs.

CAP’s upcoming reports on College for All will address how an early guarantee of federal financial aid could eliminate barriers to a postsecondary education; how much the federal government would provide to cover costs at community colleges, public four-year colleges and universities, and private nonprofit and for-profit colleges; how those amounts will be determined; the levels of grant support that would be provided to low- and moderate-income students; and how the repayment terms will be structured. The reports will also address how much College for All will cost taxpayers and what the return on this investment will be. The overall goal of CAP’s College for All plan will be to ensure that the United States has the skilled workforce and educated citizenry needed to achieve inclusive prosperity and to create a postsecondary education system that encourages economic growth.

Click here to read “Strengthening Our Economy Through College for All” by David A. Bergeron and Carmel Martin.

Source: www.americanprogress.org