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Senate of Pennsylvania
Session of 2019 - 2020 Regular Session


Posted: March 5, 2019 10:04 AM
From: Senator Vincent J. Hughes
To: All Senate members
Subject: Higher Education Affordability Week
In the near future, I plan to introduce a Resolution to designate the week of March 25th to the 29th, as “Higher Education Affordability Week” in Pennsylvania.

Pennsylvania ranks first in the average amount of student debt, by state, with $36,193. In the past 10 years, the cost of college has risen by 45 percent, while incomes have decreased by seven percent. A majority of students, who borrowed federal loans, are making interest-only payments, or no payments at all on their loans. The Institute for Higher Education Policy (IHEP) found that 70 percent of American Colleges are unaffordable for lower-income and middle-income students. Lower- and middle-income students are often unwilling or unable to take out student loans.

One of the most important steps we can take toward making higher education affordable is to reduce or eliminate student debt. We must recognize the importance of saving for higher education and the difficulties of saving that students and parents face. The Commonwealth has taken steps to assist families with saving for college through the Tap 529 Program and the Keystone Scholars Program. These programs provide families with different options for saving for higher education. Unfortunately, knowledge of the availability of programs such as these, as well as financial aid that can help finance the cost of higher education, varies across demographic groupings.

It is undisputable that workers with more education typically earn higher wages. In Philadelphia, a four-year degree provides a person an average of $8,614 more in salary compared to their peers who forewent college. Higher education is a critical mechanism for socioeconomic advancement and economic mobility in our society, where all residents stand to benefit from the skills and education gained by students seeking higher education. Specifically, the average four-year degree holder contributes $278,000 to local economies through direct spending over the course of her lifetime. The future of the Commonwealth depends, in part, on the ability of public and private higher education institutions to continue to fulfill their missions and make the possibility of a degree a reality for all.

I hope you will join me in sponsoring this worthy resolution.

Please contact my office if you have any questions.

Introduced as SR54