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Braley campaigns on college affordability

BY LAUREN COFFEY | SEPTEMBER 23, 2014 5:00 AM

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Rep. Bruce Braley, D-Iowa, was the first candidate in Iowa’s Senate race to propose a new plan for college affordability, focusing on loans and interest rates for students and their parents after announcing it last week.

And Monday, Braley made a campaign stop at the University of Iowa to discuss that plan. This is the seventh stop he has made at a higher-education institution in Iowa to talk with students, and the second time he has come to the UI.

“Some people want to cut the Department of Education, which would mean getting rid of Pell Grants and cutting work-study programs,” he said to a roomful of students. “What would that mean to you?”

College affordability has also been on the mind of Gov. Terry Branstad, who proposed a plan earlier this month to cut tuition for in-state students in half if they were working toward a degree that was popular among many students. This would cut tuition to roughly $10,000 a year for approximately half the students at the state Board of Regents’ schools.

Braley he added he wanted to focus on the issue of loans and interest rates being more affordable for students as well.

“I think we need to have open minds on all of the factors that affect college costs,” he told The Daily Iowan. “One of that is what college and universities charge for tuition, fees, and books so if there are creative ways we can providing incentives to create their degrees in a fixed period of time, then I think we should be looking at that. We also have to look at the roles of the things I discussed and making college affordable for Iowa students.”

Republican opponent Joni Ernst has not proposed her own college affordability plan, and she could not be reached for comment on either Branstad’s or Braley’s plans. Iowa GOP officials said they don’t have any preferences for what Ernst’s plan should entail should she choose to create one, because they do not comment on policy issues for the candidates.

Ernst and Braley are vying for Sen. Tom Harkin’s U.S. Senate seat. Harkin has been involved with education over the course of his career in Congress, serving as a subcommittee chairman within the Senate Appropriations Committee that is responsible for funding education. In the past he has worked specifically with providing low-income students with grants and scholarships to ensure they can afford college.

Braley’s four-point plan for college affordability includes increasing tax credits to pay for tuition and other fees for undergraduate students, along with increasing interest-rate deductions on student loans.

He also proposed creating a program to provide students who are close to graduating with grants, as long as the students are in good academic standing to encourage them to finish their education.

The last part of the plan would allow students to refinance their loans in order to take out additional assistance, along with lowering interests rates, a move that could affect 311,000 Iowa student-loan borrowers.


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