How Republican and Democratic Wish Lists on Higher Education Stack Up

Democrats in the U.S. House of Representatives on Tuesday introduced their proposal to reauthorize the Higher Education Act, the main legislation governing federal higher-education policy. Their bill, called the Aim Higher Act, presents a stark contrast to the Republican alternative, the Promoting Real Opportunity, Success, and Prosperity Through Education Reform Act, or the Prosper Act, which was unveiled last year and currently awaits action on the House floor.

Legislators in both parties agree that the higher-education system is flawed. Access to affordable four-year degrees is limited, and students struggle with loan debt.]

The two bills suggest changes in several of the same programs, including simplifying the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, holding colleges accountable to their goals and their students’ educational outcomes, and enhancing access for more financially vulnerable students. But how the bills would go about making those changes differs greatly.

Neither party’s proposal is likely to become law, especially in an election year with many higher legislative priorities, so the long-delayed reauthorization of the law might be years away. Here’s how the two parties’ wish lists stack up, based on their respective bill summaries.

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