Scott talks tuition, plans for 2019

With Democrat control of the House in January, Democrat Bobby Scott is expected to assume chairmanship of the Committee on Education and Workforce

By Kristen Ziccarelli

Last week, citizens of Virginia’s third district re-elected Democratic Congressman Bobby Scott to the House of Representatives. Running unchallenged, Scott’s campaign victory will grant him two more years in the Congress that he has served since 1993.

Beginning in January 2019, Scott will be part of the Democratic majority in the House of Representatives, which will have 225 seats and control of House Committees.

Scott is expected to move from Ranking Member to Chair of the Committee on Education and Workforce.

With this position, Scott’s priorities focus on several measures to change the landscape of college affordability, student debt and the minimum wage. Passing new the Aim Higher Act and the evaluating the Obama-era Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) are some of his legislative goals for his committee.

The Aim Higher Act is a reauthorization of the Higher Education Act of 1965 which strives to provide more affordable college and make debt-free graduation possible for students willing to work 15 hours per week.

Along with his higher-education goals, Scott also has a bill to raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour over a period of several years.

Many of his legislative measures focus on affordability in public education, a dynamic that Scott said has shifted the burden of payment from the state to the student over time.

“The problem is a matter of educational policy we can afford,” Scott said. “Decades ago you would hear people talk about [how] they ‘worked their way through college… You can’t ‘work your way through college anymore.’”

Referring to the jobs of some students that worked minimum wage jobs throughout their college career, saving almost all their earnings to pay for college, Scott’s plans aim to re-open such an opportunity for students.

“We should be able to get back to the days where people can work their way through college and work 15 hours a week,” Scott said.  “They ought to be able to come out without incurring a significant amount of debt.”

Bobby Scott

While citing the great amount of work to be done, Scott believes that such a goal is in the foreseeable future. Citing other sources of spending, including tax cuts and expensive legislation, Scott would like to see spending re-prioritized.

“It’s a matter of priorities,” Scott said. “Certainly debt-free college or affordable college is easily within reach, when you look at other choices we’re making.”

Scott broadened his concern for student welfare to other pathways such as job-specific training.

“There are many job-specific trainings that you can get that will help you in a specific job and we need to make sure that kind of training is also available,” Scott said. “But for those that want a liberal arts college experience that should not be unachievable to families because they can’t afford it.”

Citing the changing scope of education throughout time, Scott placed President Lyndon Johnson’s Higher Education Act in the context of the 1960’s, where resources such as the Pell Grant could support a student’s education at any college.

“Because state colleges are not as strongly supported and Pell Grants haven’t caught up with the rising cost of tuition, a lot of people have to incur huge debt, even if they’re willing to work during the school year,” Scott said.

Underscoring the importance of educational equity and affordability, Scott emphasized the effect of education over an individual’s lifetime.

“Your future to a large degree depends on the educational level you receive,” Scott said. “The more education you have by and large the more money you can make.”

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