By Viraktep Ath

Earlier this summer, conservative leaders in Congress put forward their “Better Way” plan to combat issues related to “poverty, opportunity, and upward mobility.”

While the media focused on the plan’s proposed solutions to poverty, also included in the “Better Way” proposal were conservative solutions to skyrocketing student loan debt, increasing tuition rates, creeping federal control over academic institutions, and more.

The plan states, “College costs are on the rise. Millions of individuals are in a desperate search for full-time jobs. Many students are not receiving the high quality education they need to succeed in life.”

It adds, “We need rules of the road that promote the best interests of students, workers, school administrators, and employers. Federal policies should help support strong, successful schools and workplaces, helping to provide all Americans an equal chance to excel in the classroom and the workforce.”

It’s beyond refreshing to hear elected officials take seriously the plight of young Americans on campuses. Increased student loan debt, youth unemployment, and national debt per capita have caused YAF’s Youth Misery Index to hit record highs during President Obama’s tenure in office. The country is ready for fresh and innovative solutions from conservative policymakers.

The plan’s approach to higher education is broken down into four simple categories.

  1. Empowering Students and Families to Make Informed Decisions
  2. Simplifying and Improving Student Aid
  3. Promoting Innovation, Access and Completion to Reduce College Costs
  4. Ensuring Strong Accountability and Limited Federal Role

Under the category concerning “empowering students,” the plan suggests streamlining the dissemination of more relevant information to parents and prospective applicants on the values of specific institutions.

The decision to attend college may be one of the most important decisions in a young person’s life. It is vital that students are informed about the value their degree holds in the marketplace, and what educational institutions can best serve their aspirations.

The plan argues that “federal agencies should coordinate more effectively, avoid duplication, and deliver information in a format that is easy to understand.” The power of information empowers students to choose a college experience that will better fit their budget and their interests.

Concerning student loan aid, “Better Way” intends to cut through the fog of bureaucracy and implement simpler solutions. The plan outlines the over eight different types of federal loans and grants, each “with its own set of rules and eligibility requirements” as well as “nine separate repayment programs with different eligibility requirements, payment schedules and terms and conditions,” students currently have to navigate in order to finance their educations.

In response, the plan calls for “one grant program, one loan program, and one work study program” to dispel any confusion concerning the financial aid process.

Encouragingly, the plan concludes with one concrete recommendation (emphasis added):

Task Force Solution: Repeal onerous higher education regulations. While federal rules can serve an important role in providing institutional accountability, each federal rule and reporting requirement levied on schools, colleges, and universities carries its own cost that is ultimately passed onto students. Therefore, Congress must eliminate burdensome higher education regulations, like the gainful employment regulation, that were made outside of statutory changes and are not in line with congressional intent. Issues like this should be thoughtfully vetted and addressed through the normal legislative process. These regulations are a counterproductive impediment to colleges and universities trying to serve their students. Congress can help strengthen higher education and control costs by removing burdensome and duplicative federal requirements that prevent institutions from delivering higher education in more creative, cost-effective ways.

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