By Eric Kelderman
Congressional hearings often feature bitter partisanship and acrimonious finger pointing. But there was mostly agreement on Thursday at a higher-education hearing of the U.S. Senate’s Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions.
Both Sen. Tom Harkin, a Democrat of Iowa, and Sen. Lamar Alexander, a Republican of Tennessee, agreed that states should take a leading role in paying for and overseeing public colleges.
Senator Harkin, the committee’s chairman, reiterated his view that states largely disinvested from higher education during the most recent recession, driving up the tuition costs and requiring students to go deeper in debt for a college education.
“The steady erosion of state investment in public higher education over the last few decades reflects a stunning abdication of responsibility on the part of states to preserve college affordability,” Senator Harkin said in his prepared remarks.
The solution, Mr. Harkin said, is to create incentives for states to increase their appropriations for higher education.
Senator Harkin and other Democrats on the committee also urged states to continue their scrutiny of for-profit colleges and, more recently, companies that claim to offer relief from student-loan debt.