College Affordability Program clears higher-education committee

Senate Bill 5954, known as the Senate majority’s College Affordability Program, won approval today from the Senate Higher Education Committee. The proposal is sponsored by Sen. Barbara Bailey, who chairs the committee; it would reduce college tuition by as much as 30 percent at the state’s research institutions and cap tuition to a percentage of the state’s average income. The bill, which would reverse decades of skyrocketing tuition, passed without changes despite attempts to attach over $170 million in new taxes.

“The costs associated with this bill are a worthwhile investment after decades of using higher-education budgets like a piggy bank,” said Bailey. “I find it interesting that after years of putting higher education on the back burner, some are only willing to invest in higher education if they can squeeze more money out of taxpayers.”

Bailey has focused her efforts as committee chair on increasing college access and affordability; she was instrumental in the Senate Majority Coalition’s successful freeze of college tuition for 2013-15 — the first time in more than 30 years that tuition costs did not increase in consecutive academic years.

“I’ve heard the criticisms about how to pay for this proposal, and it comes down to priorities. There are numerous state programs that cost about what it would take to cut tuition, in this bill. I am saying that reducing student debt and making college affordable is a priority for our young people and for our economy.”