A new bill would make 2-year colleges debt free. Here's how it would work.

College is expensive. Congress has two very different ideas on how to handle that.

On July 24, House Democrats unveiled the Aim Higher Act, a proposal that would allow people to attend a two-year community college debt-free.

“We want a world where parents do not have to choose between college for their kids or paying the rent,” said Rep. Susan Davis (D-California).


Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images.

In short, the proposal would force states and the federal government to work together, simplifying the application process for financial aid, increasing funding for Pell grants, improving protections against predatory lenders, and increasing outreach to underserved communities like Native Americans.

Democrats say their proposal is a response to a competing bill from House Republicans called the PROSPER Act, which also seeks to simplify the financial aid process but would also cut federal funding for at least two major aid programs by $15 billion over the next decade. It came about one day after Education Secretary Betsy DeVos proposed cutting back debt relief options for students who have been defrauded by predatory lenders.

Political observers say the Aim Higher Act isn’t likely to make serious progress in the current session of Congress. So, why did Democrats even propose it?

Congress is up for grabs in November 2018, and we’re starting to see what Democrats would do if they win control.

Historically, the party that wins the White House usually loses seats in Congress during the next midterm election. And with President Donald Trump’s low-approval ratings, there’s a lot of talk about Democrats potentially taking control of the House, though the Senate is still considered a long shot.

In light of that, a potential Democratic agenda is slowly starting to take shape. Along with the Aim Higher Act, Democrats in Congress recently launched the "Medicare for All" caucus committed to a proposal that would essentially replace Obamacare with universal health care. It already has 70 members and a formal proposal with official support from 120 Democrats in Congress.

“It’s an opportunity for us,” Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Washington) said. “There has never been a coordinated effort to share information around the prospect of ‘Medicare for All.’ This is historic.”

That doesn’t mean either of those bills will ever become law. Trump is still president and has threatened to veto any universal health care bills Congress sends to him.

But if power in Congress is split after the 2018 midterms, it’s likely Democrats and Republicans will be under pressure to work together to get legislation passed. At the very least, voters are starting to get a clearer picture of what their vote in November could actually mean.

The issue of high cost higher education is just one of the issues that both sides agree needs a solution.

Democrats and Republicans may not agree on the answer but there seems to at least be a near consensus about the problem.

Offering solutions that lift up those in need is something our government should be doing more of, and these kinds of policy moves are giving people something to vote for instead of just another thing to vote against.

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