Stefanik explores challenges facing college students in hearing on empowering millennials

U.S. Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-NY) highlighted the importance of college completion, flexibility and affordability on Tuesday during a Republican Policy Committee (RPC) Millennial Task Force hearing.

Stefanik, who chaired the RPC’s third hearing on empowering millennials, heard testimony about college completion, student loan repayments, Pell Grant system reforms and promoting financial literacy among students.

“As the first member of my immediate family to graduate from college, the issue of college affordability and accessibility is a top priority of mine,” Stefanik said. “The millennial generation in our country is being crushed by soaring college costs and student loan debt, and as lawmakers, we must find solutions to address affordability and flexibility in higher education.”

Stan Jones, the president of Complete College America, said that 31 million students have attended college over the last 20 years and failed to earn a degree.

“Far too many students get lost in the process, slowed down by unclear expectations, numerous obstacles and having no clear pathway to graduation day,” Jones said.

Lauren Kent, a former member of the armed forces, testified about challenges and factors that led to her dropping out of college.

“From the beginning, pursuing an undergraduate degree has been fraught with challenges, some created by personal choice, others outside of my control,” Kent said. “As an active duty military member, I worked odd shifts and long, unpredictable hours, which prevented me from attending traditional college classes.”

James Kennedy, the associate vice president of Indiana University Student Services and Systems, highlighted programs that encourage students to take 15 credits each semester in order to finish their degree programs within four years.

“Regional campuses are showing a 42 percent increase in the number of students taking 15 or more credits per semester,” Kennedy said. “This initiative, coupled with financial literacy programs, has really made an impact. IU had 20,000 students receive a degree in both the 2014-15 and 2015-16 academic years. This was a new record for the university.”

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