The Higher Ed Problem: 44 million Americans have more than $1.5T in student debt. More than 40% of federal student loans are in danger of not being repaid.   

AYA’s Higher Education Platform

Whether it’s completing the myriad of confusing financial aid forms, understanding the potential costs of attending college, or navigating complex system of grants, loans, and other aid, college is often inaccessible for hundreds of thousands of young Americans, especially students of color or first-generation college attendees.

While recent research shows that more low-income students are enrolling in college than ever before, the research also shows that they are enrolling in community colleges and for-profit institutions where they have lower completion rates than their wealthier peers. AYA believes that all young Americans deserve the opportunity to attend high-quality colleges and we support policies that provide equitable opportunities for students, no matter what their backgrounds are, to obtain a higher education degree.

AYA supports policies and legislation that:

  • Help first generation students, low-income families, and non-traditional students attend and complete college
  • Support student success at institutions that serve large populations of underserved students, including minority serving institutions (MSIs) such as Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs), Tribal Colleges and Universities (TCUs), Hispanic Serving Institutions (HSIs), and Asian American and Native American Pacific Islander Serving Institutions (AANAPISIs)
  • Promote high-quality opportunities for individuals to enroll in college while in high school, creating opportunities to complete college early and reduce overall student debt
  • Standardize the financial aid offers that colleges make to students to ensure students know what they can expect to owe and when
  • Restore access to Pell Grants so that incarcerated individuals can enroll in high-quality educational opportunities
With the rising costs of obtaining a higher education degree and almost 44 million Americans currently with college debt, AYA supports policies that help make attending college more affordable.

According to the College Board, the Pell Grant now covers only 60 percent of in-state tuition at public colleges, down from 92 percent twenty years ago. Tuition continues to rise year-over-year well beyond the rate of inflation, while federal aid and state investments in higher education fail to keep pace. And while the return on investment of an average college education remains strong, the returns of specific programs at specific institutions vary considerably and can even be negative in some programs. Especially as a college degree or credential becomes increasingly critical in the labor market, AYA believes that young Americans should be able to afford to go to college and better their own lives.

Specifically, AYA supports policies and legislation that:

  • Make the overall costs of college affordable, including tuition, living, and other costs
  • Promotes a state-federal partnership to promote greater investments from both in higher education
  • Expand federal grant aid programs and ensure the Pell Grant keeps pace with the rising costs of college
  • Promote and protect income-based repayment options and loan forgiveness programs, particularly for at-risk borrowers
  • Ensure low-income parents are not shouldered with tens of thousands of dollars in debt to finance their children’s education
  • Encourages and incentivizes employers to help pay off the student loans of employees without detriment to other employee benefits
Given the immense financial investment required to attend college, students should have a clear picture based on sound and easy to understand data about all of the relevant factors that go into deciding to attend a particular institution.

Data about college costs, completion rates, default rates, job placement rates, student outcomes, equity gaps, and overall school performance should be made readily accessible to students in a format that is easy to understand.

Additionally, we believe that higher education institutions have a responsibility to their students to ensure that the degrees they earn are worth the investments they make. In order to protect students from predatory behaviors and worthless degrees, the federal government must have in place laws and regulations that penalize institutions that engage in predatory admissions practices or that mislead students. To prevent such practices, we support strengthening the current higher education program integrity triad, including ensuring the federal government, states, and accreditors act to protect consumers. Moreover, given the high costs young Americans pay to obtain a higher education degree, AYA believes that the federal government closely scrutinize and hold all colleges accountable for their outcomes to ensure students’ interests are being protected.

AYA supports policies and legislation that:

  • Modernizes and strengthens the reporting system to make data about colleges more transparent, accurate of how well institutions are serving their students, and accessible for students and families
  • Increase accountability standards for higher education institutions
  • Strengthen accreditors’ and states’ oversight of colleges and ensure they protect students’ interests
  • Provide debt relief for school closures or to borrowers defrauded by their colleges
  • Hold student loan servicers accountable for providing high-quality information and customer service to borrowers

Tell us how your student debt is impacting you. These stories are important for Congress to know as they work to address student debt.


Refinancing Student Loans

Many student loan borrowers are paying 9 or 10% interest rates while the cost of capital in public markets is at all-time lows. Allow students to refinance their loans and repay at the same low interest rates everyone else enjoys

Bankruptcy Protection

Although technically allowable in only extreme circumstances, it has proven virtually impossible to discharge student loans through bankruptcy. Bankruptcy is not a great option, but it must be an option for student debt holders, just like all other types of debt.

“Bankruptcy laws allow companies to smoothly reorganize, but not college graduates burdened by student loans.”

—Robert Reich

Legislation AYA Supports

  • A bicameral bill introduced by Senator Warren (D-MA) and House Majority Whip Clyburn (D-SC), the Student Loan Debt Relief Act, would wipe out student debt for 75%, or 42 million of the 45 million Americans saddled in debt. Strongly endorsed by AYA, this proposal would cancel up to $50,000 of outstanding student loan debt for each qualified borrower. Borrowers earning $100,000 or less will be eligible for the full $50,000 in debt cancellation, and the cancellation amount will reduce by $1 for every $3 in income above $100,000. Additionally, the legislation includes other important benefit for borrowers, including the ability to convert private loans into federal loans that qualify for cancellation and the ability to discharge student debt in bankruptcy.

  • Student Borrower Bankruptcy Relief Act of 2019: The bicameral billed introduced by Senator Durbin (D-IL) and Rep. Nadler (D-NY), would eliminate the section of the bankruptcy code (11 U.S.C. 523(a)(8)) that makes student loans non-dischargeable, allowing these loans to be treated like nearly all other forms of consumer debt. Filing for bankruptcy is not a step that student borrowers would take lightly, and the strict means test for bankruptcy filing that Congress imposed in 2005 would ensure that borrowers who have the means to repay student debts cannot simply liquidate them in bankruptcy.  However, for those student borrowers who have no realistic path to pay back their crushing student loan debt burden, bankruptcy should be available as an option to help them get back on their feet. The bill has support from 17 Democrats in the Senate and 19 in the House, including 1 Republican in the House – John Katko from NY.

  • The College Transparency Act (CTA) is a bipartisan bill that has been introduced in both the House and Senate and would provide better data and information about college. If passed, the legislation would overturn a ban on a federal data system to track employment and graduation outcomes of college students. The CTA would ensure accurate reporting on student outcomes such as enrollment, completion, and post-college success across colleges and majors. In order to protect student privacy, the bill bans the sale of the data, prohibits access by law enforcement, and limits the use of personally identifiable information. There are 18 cosponsors of the bill on the Senate side and 12 cosponsors on the House side.

  • Senators John Thune (R-SD) and Mark Warner (D-VA) and Reps. Scott Peters (D-CA) and Rodney Davis (R-IL) introduced the Employer Participation in Repayment Act, which would expand the tax exclusion for employer-provided educational assistance to include payments of qualified education loans by an employer to either an employee or a lender. If passed, this bill would offer a tax credit to employers who help pay down student debt. The bill has strong bipartisan support in both chambers with 127 cosponsors in the House and 21 in the Senate. We’re also part of a great coalition working to get this bill over the finish line.

  • Senators Gillibrand (D-NY) and Kaine (D-VA) have introduced the “What You Can Do for Your Country Act of 2019 Act”, which would close loopholes and make important updates to the current Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program (PSLF). If passed, the bill would allow all types of federal loans and repayment plans to qualify for forgiveness, require better information and guidance to be provided about the program, allow some forgiveness within 5 years, and would simplify the application and certification program.

  • Senators Hassan (D-NH) and Durbin (D-IL) recently introduced the PROTECT Students Act, which if passed into law would protect students and taxpayers from predatory higher education practices. The key provisions of the will would codify and strengthen the borrower defense and gainful employment rules, improve the 90/10 rule and incentive compensation protections, and add new safeguards against the fraudulent for-profit/nonprofit conversions. Additionally, the bill includes provisions that would: “Ensure that individual students, groups of students and state attorneys general can bring suit to enforce certain violations of the HEA. Ensure coordination of for-profit college oversight and enforcement activities between federal agencies, prohibit schools receiving student aid funds from using mandatory pre-dispute arbitration clauses and class action bans, and authorize both an Enforcement Unit and a complaint tracking system at the Department of Education.” The bill currently has 8 Democratic co-sponsors.

Did you know?

Last year, $3B was spent on lobbying, stealing the ears of those we elect, kicking our wants and needs off of the political to-do list. Tweet this.


Young people should have a voice.

Telling your legislators what you want and how to vote is hugely powerful in creating the future we want, and in holding them accountable.


Lobbying is central to our democracy.

We talk, politicians listen. Everyone has the right to speak with their representative.


Currently, our voice is not heard.

In practice, only those who can afford lobbyists get consistent access to legislators, ultimately elevating the political agendas of corporations.

This is how

Support YOUR Lobbyist

We believe that lobbying can be used as a force for good. Lobbying by definition is simply influencing a politician about a specific issue. The problem right now is that corporations, wealthy individuals, and even our parents and grandparents have lobbyists, not everyday young people.

That’s why we went out and got our own lobbyist. A lobbyist who represents YOU, the concerned young American. AYA members get regular updates from lobbyists in Washington who are fighting for you and unique engagement opportunities.

Meet Ally Bernstein

Ally Bernstein

As AYA’s registered lobbyist, Ally works on your behalf to make progress on the issues you care about most.

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