By U.S. Rep. Lloyd Doggett
As Incarnate Word students gear up for final exams, the affordability and accessibility of higher education remains at stake in Washington.
Too many of our students encounter financial barriers to higher education, and too many others leave college with a mountain of debt. The level of student debt nationwide now totals more than $1 trillion – surpassing credit card debt.
It is imperative that we pursue policies to reduce the student debt that burdens so many. San Antonio was recently recognized by the U.S. Department of Education as one of the top five cities in the nation in increases in Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) completion rates. More than half of San Antonio students graduating from high school now apply for federal financial aid to help assist with the high costs of college.
However, we continue to face big challenges from those in Congress who do not believe in federal aid to education and who oppose adequate funding for student aid. The top Republican on the subcommittee that oversees higher education policy in the U.S. House of Representatives has told her colleagues “it is not the role of the Congress to make college affordable and accessible.” I strongly disagree.
Despite challenges, I continue to work to help ensure all UIW students are able to achieve their full God-given potential. In the past year, I have supported legislation to avoid the doubling of interest rates on federal loans and to continue adequate funding for Pell grants and other types of federal student financial assistance. I successfully authored the “More Education” tax credit to encourage those seeking education beyond high school. Also known as the American Opportunity Tax Credit (AOTC), this law provides a tax cut to students or their families by up to $10,000 over four years as reimbursement for tuition, textbooks, and other higher education expenses. This $2,500 annual credit can go a long way in making ends meet.
Even those attending school and working part time, who do not have as much as a $2,500 tax liability, can still claim up to $1,000 in a refundable tax credit for eligible educational expenses, which is similar to the refundable Earned Income Tax Credit. Earlier this year, I introduced legislation to make this tax credit permanent and to make it work better for students who also receive Pell grants.
I have heard time and time again about the difficulty students face when trying to finance their education. It is important that students and families affected by the cost of higher education contact their elected officials at the local, state and federal level to express their support for programs that help students afford college and reduce the level of debt that burdens so many.
I believe an investment in our students is an investment in the future of America, but to maintain that investment, it is essential that UIW families continue to make their voices heard.
Doggett is a senior member of the House Ways & Means Committee and of the House Budget Committee
E-mail Doggett at firstname.lastname@example.org