AKERS: Compromise is in the air for higher education policy


Just last week, House Majority Leader Nancy Pelosi drew an important line in the sand on the debate over a student loan jubilee. Parting from the Warren-Sanders wing of her party, she rejected the idea that the White House could act unilaterally to cancel any or all student debt. Her comments, after a deafening silence on the issue for many months, seemed to mark a turning point in the debate on higher education reform, which has been dominated by radically progressive ideas in recent years.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) takes questions as she holds her weekly news conference with Capitol Hill reporters at the Capitol in Washington, U.S., July 22, 2021. Via REUTERS/Elizabeth Frantz

During the Democratic primary leading up to the 2020 presidential election, it seemed that candidates were tripping over themselves to fight for the title of “most progressive,” with proposals like student loan forgiveness and free college becoming mainstream. But that talk seems to be waning in favor of more reasonable reforms championed by moderates on both sides of the aisle.

For example, the House Labor and Workforce Committee recently held a conference on increased spending for Pell Grants, a notion which was spurred by President Biden’s campaign promise and has enjoyed bipartisan support for decades. And just yesterday, the Senate Judiciary Committee had a hearing on reforming bankruptcy law to allow for the discharge of student loans. Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle see the importance of allowing student loans to be discharged under certain conditions in order to provide a more robust safety net for borrowers.

Trying to read the tea leaves in DC is a fool’s game, but hopefully this is the beginning of a new era in higher education policy. Reasonable people on both sides of the aisle can find common ground on reforms that will actually help students and the economy, rather than overpromising radical reforms to upper-class Americans to win votes.

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