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PA Senators Unveil Plan to Make College More Affordable

With college costs rising faster than inflation for the last decade, Pennsylvania lawmakers have unveiled a 13-bill package that would make higher education more affordable, especially for students from lower-income families.

The “College Access Plan” would establish merit based scholarship funds; $50 million in loan forgiveness for Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) majors, and Department of Education funding to encourage high school students to attend college and earn more college credits in high school.

State Sen. Jay Costa (D-Alleghney) said the proposed legislation is “essential to making certain that our high school students have a path to higher education that doesn’t unduly burden themselves (sic) with student loan debt but also doesn’t unduly burden the families that are supporting their kids in that effort.”

The PA Pathways to College Act, sponsored by Sen. Larry Farnese (D-Philadelphia), would target struggling high schools and provide funding for additional career counselors and college preparatory resources.

Some the bills include pay-it-back requirements, under which students receive college tuition aid with the understanding that they must work in Pennsylvania for at least five years following graduation. Sen. Anthony Williams (D-Philadelphia) said such measures could help “jump start Pennsylvania’s economy.”

The bills cover education from kindergarten to college graduation, with the Financial Literacy bill requiring that students be taught about personal finance from kindergarten through the end of high school, to make students possible partners in financial planning for their college tuition. Another proposed plan called “Fly in Four” would create incentives for college students to graduate on-time.