Norwalk, CT – Congressman Jim Himes (CT-4) moderated a roundtable discussion on higher education affordability and access at Norwalk Community College today. The higher education experts on the panel offered their respective experience, expertise and ideas on college costs and accessibility. Himes discussed his legislative efforts, including the recent introduction of the College Affordability and Innovation Act, to increase higher education opportunities and control long-term cost growth. Following the discussion, Himes and the experts took questions from local students in attendance.

“Connecticut residents have some of the highest student debt loads in the nation. As we continue to work to help our students pay for their education, we simply need to rein in the actual costs of a high-quality education,” Himes said. “This panel brought together a diverse group of experts working directly on this issue, and I applaud them on their efforts. Institutions like Norwalk Community College, UCONN and Yale are taking innovative steps to maintain and improve quality, while slowing cost hikes. The legislation I recently introduced would support such models to help keep higher education an achievable, and still attainable, goal for all Americans.”

Himes introduced the College Affordability and Innovation Act of 2014 (H.R. 5674) in September as the companion to the Senate bill championed by Senator Chris Murphy (D-CT). The legislation is designed to both encourage innovation and promote accountability at our nation’s institutes of higher learning. 

The bill would create a new evidence-based grant program to promote greater experimentation in delivering higher education to middle and low-income students. The grants will go to innovative programs designed to reduce the amount of classroom time and decrease the costs of completing higher education degrees, such as competency-based courses, online education, and dual enrollment or fast-track programs.

It would also create an independent commission of stakeholders, including students and faculty, and education experts to develop minimum accountability standards for making college more affordable, providing better access for middle and low-income students and providing value to students.

The panel today included Dr. David Levinson, President of Norwalk Community College; Nathan Fuerst, University of Connecticut Director of Admissions; Mark Dunn, Yale University Associate Director of Admissions; Teresa Wilson, Executive Director of the Village Initiative Project; Mona Lucas, Director of Student Financial Aid Services, University of Connecticut; and Michael Jones, Temple University, Class of 2014.