Himes wants to use innovation to lower college tuition costs

Congressman Jim Himes, who represents most of Shelton, has introduced a bill designed to lower the cost of getting a college education.

Himes, a fourth-term Democrat, said the College Affordability and Innovation Act “will start to rein in college costs by incentivizing innovative solutions.”

Himes has introduced the bill with U.S. Sen. Chris Murphy of Connecticut, a fellow Democrat.

The proposed legislation would create a pilot grant competition program to promote greater experimentation in delivering higher education to middle- and low-income students, according to the two federal legislators.

The grants would go to programs designed to reduce the amount of classroom time and decrease the costs of completing higher education degrees, such as competency-based courses, online education, and dual-enrollment or fast-track programs.

‘Crushing student-loan debt’

“We have an obligation to provide a brighter and better America for young people,” Himes said. “This means making higher education a reality for everyone who wants it and is willing to put in the work.
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“But it’s bad for the country if an entire generation is saddled with crushing student-loan debt, and when I talk to high school students it always at the very top of their concerns,” he said. “This bill will start to rein in college costs by incentivizing innovative solutions.”

According to a Himes press release, during the last 30 years the cost of a higher education has increased nearly 300%.

Student loan debt now is one of the largest forms of personal debt held by Americans, stated the release, and more than one in five adults indicate that college costs are the biggest financial problem for their families.

“The cost of higher education is straining finances, causing stress, and putting a college degree out of reach for many Americans,” according to the release from Himes.

Create accountability commission

Himes said the bill also would increase accountability by creating an independent commission of stakeholders, including students, faculty and education experts.

The commission would work to develop minimum accountability standards for making college more affordable, providing better access for middle- and low-income students, and providing value to students, Himes said.

Himes and Murphy met this week with juniors at Fairchild Wheeler Multi-Magnet High School in Bridgeport to discuss their proposed legislation and the rising price of college, student loans and debt. Fairchild Wheeler, which specializes in technology and science, is open to Shelton students.

Murphy said the bill would “set new standards for schools that receive federal funding so that they’re more accountable to students and taxpayers. The federal government needs to get serious about lowering the cost of college rather than simply making it easier for kids to borrow more money.”