Oregon Senators aspire to lower cost of college

By:Conner Williams
Editor in Chief

U.S. Senators Ron Wyden (D-OR) and Jeff Merkley (D-OR) introduced a bill on Wed., Oct.
2, 2015 that aims to reduce the cost of college for students across the nation.

According to a press release from the office of Sen. Wyden, the Promoting Access and Retention Through New Efforts to Require Shared Higher Investments in Postsecondary Success (PARTNERSHIPS) Act “encourages states to hold down college tuition costs by creating a program that provides federal matching funds for states that agree to end tuition growth at their public colleges and universities.”

For universities that choose to eliminate tuition growth, the bill provides matching federal funds “based on how much funding a state provides for public higher education operating support on a per student basis, compared and indexed to the maximum Pell Grant award,” the press release stated.

The bill asserts that states that generally spend more per student already can receive federal matching rates upwards of about $1700 per student.

Colleges and universities usually increase tuition due to rising funding cuts for higher education at the state level.

According to the press release, this means that states “currently spend about 20 percent less per student on higher education nationally than they did in 2008.

“College students in Oregon and across the country feel like they’re getting hit by a wrecking ball when it comes to the cost of tuition,” Sen. Wyden said.

“It’s time for our federal and state governments to partner [together] to bring down tuition costs and reinvest in higher education here in America,” Sen. Merkley reiterated.

Wyden and Merkley met with students from the University of Oregon, Southern Oregon University, and Lane Community College to discuss the rising costs of tuition and to converse about methods of decreasing the cost of college.

In addition to providing matching federal funds for states that eliminate tuition increases, the PARTNERSHIPS Act “would expand and make permanent the American Opportunity Tax Credit, which is available to families to help pay for college,” the press release said.

The bill would increase the tax refund for lower-income families that do not owe any taxes, and would make all Pell grants awarded tax-free.

There will be a follow-up story in next week’s issue with additional information from the western administrators.