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AASCU & APLU Statement on Introduction of Senators Wyden & Merkley’s PARTNERSHIPS Act to Address College Affordability

American Association of State Colleges and Universities (AASCU) President Muriel Howard and Association of Public and Land-grant Universities (APLU) President Peter McPherson today released the following statement regarding U.S. Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR) and U.S. Senator Jeff Merkley’s (D-OR) introduction of the PARTNERSHIPS Act to address college affordability.

“The American Association of State Colleges and Universities (AASCU) and the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities (APLU) applaud and thank Senator Wyden and Senator Merkley for championing landmark legislation to address the issue of college affordability. The PARTNERSHIPS Act is groundbreaking in its recognition of state disinvestment as the main driver of tuition hikes at public colleges and universities. During the six year period of 2006-2007 to 2012-2013, after adjusting for inflation, four-year public universities experienced state funding cuts of $2,370 per student. These significant appropriations cuts come at a time of heightened demand for public higher education. Total enrollments at four-year public institutions of higher education increased by 35 percent between 2000 and 2012.

“Over the course of the last quarter-century, inflation-adjusted state spending per student at two and four-year public institutions has sharply decreased by 30 percent, with much of the cost shifted unto the shoulders of students and their families. As public institutions educate nearly three-quarters of all post-secondary students, there simply is no issue more directly correlated to higher education access and affordability for the vast majority of students and families than the steep decline in state support for public higher education.

“The Wyden-Merkley legislation would put in place a mechanism that aligns federal and state funding practices. We believe a voluntary partnership between the federal government and the states is an important path forward to achieve college affordability and should be included in legislation to reauthorize the Higher Education Act.

“Like all complex legislation, there are aspects of the bill we believe will need to be more carefully evaluated and modified, but overall this bill stands as a major step in the right direction for American students and families. We commend Senator Wyden and Senator Merkley for recognizing what must be done to ensure higher education is accessible and affordable.”

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