Senator Wyden is a leader on educational opportunity for all. Senator Wyden creates policies  to increase high school graduation rates and expand career and technical education opportunities for Oregonians. His priorities for higher education policy include increasing college affordability and transparency, expanding the American Opportunity Tax Credit and simplifying student loans. Senator Wyden works to make sure every child in Oregon and across the country - no matter where they live or who they are - has access to high quality education.

Making College More Affordable  

College tuition costs have skyrocketed in recent decades while higher education has become increasingly necessary in the American job market. Too many young people from middle and working class families are feeling priced out of a college education.

Student debt has increased astronomically as a result of rising tuition costs that are far outpacing inflation leaving many Americans questioning the value of higher education. Rising tuition is a barrier to economic mobility for students and families and inhibits economic growth in general. Accordingly, students, families and taxpayers across the country are rightly demanding reform to the American higher education system.

To drive down the cost of college, Sen. Wyden introduced the PARTNERSHIPS Act. This proposal addresses rising tuition from two vantage points—helping keep costs down from the start and providing students and families additional tax-based resources to pay for college. A key driver of college tuition increases is the continued withdrawal of state funding from the higher education equation. A recent report by the research organization Demos found that declining state support was responsible for nearly 80 percent of the rise in net tuition costs over the past decade. That same report found that more than six years after the most recent recession, state funding for higher education remains 27 percent below its pre-recession level.

Because of these steep reductions in state funding, an increasing share of college costs falls on students and families—in the form of tuition and fees—and the federal government—in the form of student aid programs. In order to stem the tide of escalating tuition, ballooning student debt, and inadequate postsecondary completion rates, this bill would create a new federal-state funding partnership to drive down tuition, improve student outcomes, and improve the overall efficacy of the U.S. higher education system.

Improving College Transparency  

As students are forced to take on record levels of debt in order to keep up with record tuition costs, Senator Wyden, along with cosponsors Senator Rubio (R-Fla.) and Senator Warner (D-Va.) has authored the Student Right to Know Before You Go Act to provide all potential college students with reliable information on what students can expect to make in the workplace. This level of information will give students the ability to choose their schools, majors and career paths with as much insight into the financial return on their higher education investment as possible.  Critically, the legislation will ensure students’ privacy is protected by mandating the use of privacy-enhancing technologies like Secure Multiparty Computation.

Expanding the American Opportunity Tax Credit  

The tax code plays an integral role in promoting college affordability. And the largest tax credit aimed at helping students and families afford college is the American Opportunity Tax Credit (AOTC). Sen. Wyden successfully worked to ensure a permanent expansion of the AOTC was included in the Protecting Americans from Tax Hikes (PATH) Act. This bipartisan law provided a tax credit of up to $10,000 for four years to help students and families pay for college.

Simplifying Student Loans  

Students and borrowers are struggling to understand the tangle of current loan repayment options. Too often, they end up in default or a less advantageous repayment plan due to this confusion. That’s why Senator Wyden introduced the bipartisan Streamlining Income-driven, Manageable Payments on Loans for Education (SIMPLE) Act with Reps. Suzanne Bonamici and Ryan Costello. The legislation allows vulnerable borrowers to automatically enroll in affordable income-driven loan repayment plans and it removes burdensome paperwork requirements for totally and permanently disabled borrowers whose loans are discharged. The SIMPLE Act will also help borrowers keep payments affordable by automating the annual process of updating borrowers’ income information while enrolled in income-driven repayment plans.

Last year, more than one million borrowers defaulted on their student loans. Overall, more than eight million borrowers are in default, and many more are behind on payments. These borrowers are often vulnerable, and many would qualify for lower payments in an existing income-driven repayment plan. Unfortunately, navigating the enrollment process for an income-driven repayment plans and continuing to submit annual documentation to qualify for affordable payments can be difficult. The SIMPLE  Act helps more borrowers participate in income-driven repayment plans.

Improving High School Graduation Rates  

To improve graduation rates and help more Oregon students thrive in Oregon’s public schools, Senator Wyden pushed for the Every Student Succeeds Act to require states to improve student learning at low-performing high schools - and required states to track the graduation rates of homeless and foster youth. Now, school districts can support their under-performing high schools by creating after-school programs, homework tutoring programs, and summer retention classes to help students get to graduation day. Thanks to Senator Wyden, funding could be awarded to school districts to hire more specialized teachers, mentors or attendance counselors. Wyden helped pass this federal K-12 Education law to allow teachers and local educators to determine the best course of action to get all students, including at-risk population like homeless and foster youth, the education they deserve.

Career and Technical Education  

Every year, Senator Wyden visits high schools all across the state to see first-hand what Career and Technical Education (CTE) programs can do for high school students in Oregon. For those reasons, Wyden introduced the bipartisan Middle School Technical Education Program (Middle STEP) Act, to give middle school students better access to CTE programs focused on career exploration. The bill would establish a pilot program that allows middle schools to partner with colleges, other postsecondary institutions and local businesses to develop and implement CTE exploration programs that give young students access to apprenticeships or project-based learning opportunities. Students that participate in Career and Technical Education graduate at higher rates, and Wyden continues to champion efforts to expand CTE opportunities for more students, and for younger students, to improve graduation rates in Oregon.