In the Richmond Times-Dispatch yesterday, Partners' president James Toscano and AARP-Virginia's state director Jim Dau made a unified call for addressing college affordability.
In the joint op-ed, Toscano and Dau point to the impact rising college costs have on a wide demographic as Virginians of all ages, including parents and grandparents, face mounting student debt. In fact, people over 60 currently hold $86 billion worth of student loan debt nationally.
"For working parents and grandparents, less time in the workplace to make up for the amount spent on higher education means a less secure retirement. And for those who have already retired and are on fixed incomes, increased borrowing for college means less for groceries, transportation, and health care; cutting back on any of these has real-world consequences.
"Still, those individuals who govern public colleges don't hear stories like these because they are exempt from listening to public comment — a requirement typical of other state bodies.
"But this year, something is changing. This year, there's a growing recognition — not just by legislators, but by groups representing students, parents, educators, older Virginians, college trustees, and even colleges themselves — that not listening is no longer an option."
During this year's session of the Virginia General Assembly, AARP-Virginia joined a Partners-led coalition in support of legislation requiring public comment periods before tuition increases at Virginia's public colleges and universities. The diverse coalition included over 50 organizations and community leaders, including the Virginia Parent Teacher Association, the Virginia Education Association, the Virginia Coalition for Open Government, the American Council of Trustees and Alumni, the National Campus Leadership Council, and U.S. PIRG.
While both the House of Delegates and Senate have successfully passed public comment legislation this year, the fate of these separate bills now awaits a conference committee to work out language differences.
Increased accountability and consumer input in public higher education is an issue that transcends partisan politics, generational divides, and industry type. This is a unifying issue, and we are grateful for our ongoing partnership with AARP-Virginia and other organizations standing up for affected Virginia students and families.