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Why Reducing The Cost Of College Should Now Be On Top Of Every Lawmaker’s Mind

By Sarah Lovenheim

President Obama’s pitch for “an ambitious new plan to bring down the cost of community college tuition in America” is significant not just for what he proposed from Tennessee – tuition-free community college for responsible students – but for the message he sent to the country: college, even community college, is out of reach for far too many Millennials today.

Nationwide, tuition has climbed by 28 percent in the past decade, or roughly twice the rate of inflation. Decades ago, Pell grants covered nearly the full cost of community college for low-income students to afford a higher education. Today, they cover just about half.

commcollegeIt’s time for state and federal lawmakers, as the President signaled, to take action. With the 114th Congress and state legislative sessions just beginning across the country, the President’s address is well timed to drive national dialogue and set an agenda for 2015 that will send members of Congress and state legislators brainstorming how to support it, or how to propose their own solutions to tackle college costs.

At Young Invincibles, we embrace national debate with open arms.

Tuition costs have spiraled out of control. Student loan debt has skyrocketed to more than $1.2 trillion across the country, while Millennial wages have fallen by 10 percent. Our generation isn’t able to save money (in fact, the latest Millennial savings rate is -.2%) and is delaying making major life decisions – such as buying a car or starting a family.

This will have long-term consequences that Millennials – and our national economy – can’t afford to risk.

Higher education is more valuable and necessary today than ever before to set our generation up for decent paying jobs and careers. By 2020, 65 percent of jobs in the U.S. will require education beyond high school, a goal that our nation will fail to reach if lawmakers do not seize the moment to invest in higher education.

We urge states and Congress to get on board the President’s plan – or propose their own alternative solutions that can forge consensus, and fast. The risk of inaction is far too great.

Under the President’s proposal, nine million young people would benefit from free community college.

By 2020, Millennials will make up half of our workforce and if our generation isn’t working, we’re not contributing to the economy and that hurts everyone.

Unemployment today, for example, costs taxpayers $25 billion per year. We encourage lawmakers to set young people up for the best paying-jobs possible today, and that starts by helping them afford a higher education.