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Detroit News: Let families invest in higher ed

March 12, 2014
Opinion Editorial

A higher education degree is increasingly critical to attaining financial stability and career success later in life. Gone are the days when just a high school degree could easily lead to a well-paying job and a comfortable middle class life. While Michigan's great paying careers now require additional training at universities, colleges, and other technical educational facilities, the high cost of obtaining that degree is often a barrier.

Last year, Rep. Dan Kildee and I introduced bipartisan legislation to help families save even more for their children's education. The Helping Families Save for Education Act will increase the amount individuals can contribute to Coverdell Education Savings Accounts to $10,000 a year from $2,000 and increase the age of eligibility to 22 from 18. Working families should have more opportunities to set aside finances for their children's education, including tuition, books and other educational expenses.

Congress continues to address these issues as well. This past summer, I voted in favor of legislation to reduce federal student loan interest rates by allowing the market to determine rates, not Congress. In August, the president signed the Bipartisan Student Loan Certainty Act into law, a significant win for students.

As a member of the House Committee on Education and the Workforce, my colleagues and I are getting ready to reauthorize the Higher Education Act later this year. The current law governs how federal dollars are spent on higher education and places burdensome and costly requirements and regulations on institutions that often add little to no real value to students. In many cases, the current law acts as a hindrance to innovation and adds unnecessary costs that are ultimately paid through student's tuition.

Reauthorization of the HEA must include provisions that empower students and parents as consumers to best determine their own educational needs. We have a responsibility to simplify and strengthen federal student aid programs, promote transparency to protect both students and taxpayers and remove government barriers that prevent students from getting the education they need. We should also put in place policies that ensure federal dollars are being used in a way that neither creates additional costly burdens on colleges and universities nor deters the environment of innovation that is at the heart of higher education.

While we certainly have more work to do, I look forward to continuing to work with my House colleagues, students and the educational community to make sure that higher education is affordable and accessible for all Michiganians so they can be prepared to pursue the jobs and careers of their choosing.

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