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Tri-Caucus Celebrates Advances for Students of Color in College Affordability Act

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Washington, October 16, 2019 | comments

On Tuesday, Democrats on the House Education and Labor Committee introduced the College Affordability Act, which reauthorizes the Higher Education Act. On September 30, the Chairs of the Congressional Tri-Caucus – Congressional Black (CBC) Caucus Chairwoman Karen Bass (CA-37), Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus (CAPAC) Chairwoman Judy Chu (CA-27), and Congressional Hispanic Caucus (CHC) Chairman Joaquin Castro (TX-20)  – sent a letter to leadership of both the Senate and House education committees urging the inclusion of priorities to address the historical educational inequities within communities of color.

The Tri-Caucus priorities, all of which were included in the College Affordability Act introduced in the House, include: 

  • Permanently reauthorizing mandatory funding for Minority Serving Institutions (MSIs)
  • Increasing funding for MSIs
  • Translating FAFSA forms into new languages
  • Increasing Pell Grants
  • Providing access to financial aid for Dreamers and TPS recipients
  • Reducing the student loan debt burden
  • Funding to increase diversity of the educator workforce
  • Reducing food and housing insecurity for students
  • Nullifies the restriction on Pell Grants and allows for incarcerated students to have access to federal student aid.   

 Reps. Bass, Chu, Castro issued the following statements:

“Education is the great equalizer in our community and a comprehensive overhaul of the higher education system is long overdue to prepare students for an innovative 21st Century economy,” said Chairwoman Bass. “The Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) has worked hard to give every African-American student access to a high-quality education that invests in their potential and builds a foundation for success. By introducing the College Affordability Act we are one step closer to reauthorizing the Higher Education Act and expanding educational opportunities for students. This legislation will streamline the federal student aid process to make it easier for students and families to access more affordable funding. Sadly, we know our community is heavily impacted by the criminal justice system, therefore, the Black Caucus fought to have restrictions on Pell Grants nullified in order to grant incarcerated students access to federal student aid, increase Pell Grants to cover a larger portion of tuition and other necessities such as food and housing, and expand funding for Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs). This legislation also strengthens civil rights enforcement to combat discrimination on all college campuses. It is because of the College Affordability Act, we are able to assist more African-American students with reaching their higher educational goals and potential.  I want to thank CBC member and Education and Labor Chairman Bobby Scott for prioritizing our caucus’ needs. It is because of his leadership and dedication that House Democrats are able to ensure all communities of color have the resources they need regardless of their income or background.”

“We know an education is the best pathway to a better future, but obstacles from language barriers to financial costs are keeping many off that path, especially those from communities of color. The reauthorization of the Higher Education Act is an opportunity to address what we know are systemic injustices that hold students of color back,” said Chairwoman Chu. “That is why I am thrilled that the College Affordability Act prioritizes reforms to Pell Grants and Federal Student Aid that make college funding both more effective and easier to access – including for immigrant households.  As CAPAC Chair, I’m especially pleased with the permanent funding for Minority Serving Institutions (MSIs), which will benefit Asian American and Native American Pacific-Islander Serving Institutions (AANAPISI). In my district, MSI funding has led to innovative and successful programs that have resulted in disproportionately high levels of achievement for students of color compared to the rest of the country. But the success of programs like that has been jeopardized ever since funding expired at the end of September. A House-passed bill, the FUTURE Act, which would reauthorize that funding, has been held up by Senate Republicans leaving MSI funding in limbo. The College Affordability Act makes MSI funding permanent and mandatory, offering a solution to end this cycle of uncertainty. I want to thank Chairman Bobby Scott for prioritizing the needs of students of color and working to ensure that everybody has the chance to earn a degree.”

“I am grateful to Chairman Scott for his work on this reauthorization act and including our Tri-Caucus Higher Education priorities in the bill, which addresses some of the most pressing barriers that keep students of color from receiving a quality education and graduating from college. The College Affordability Act reduces the burden of student loans, lowers the cost of attending college, modernizes the Pell grant system, and addresses food and housing insecurity for students. Among our contributions, I’m most proud that this bill will extend federal student aid to Dreamers, DAPA and TPS recipients,” said Chairman Castro. “Students of color comprise the majority of children in United States. Ensuring these students receive a quality higher education is critical to the future of our country. We must start investing in students of color by fully and permanently funding Minority Serving Institutions, which will allow these universities the budget to invest in innovative STEM programs and keep their graduates competitive in workforce. I am proud that the College Affordability Act will help build the infrastructure of opportunity for the students of every background and ensure every student has the resources they need to succeed in school and their career.”

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