Higher education leaders discuss college affordability

Jan 11, 2016

Some leaders in higher education say if Congress would consider reforms in the reauthorization of the Higher Education Act it could make college more affordable.  WBFO's Focus on Education Reporter Eileen Buckley says lawmakers could consider measures to improve access and affordability for students.

SUNY Buffalo State, Rockwell Hall, Elmwood Avenue in Buffalo.
Credit WBFO file photo by Eileen Buckley

"And there is never a conversation about 'what if we weren't here'," said Hilbert College President Cynthia Zane.

Hilbert College President Cynthia Zane & Buffalo State President Katherine Conway-Turner appeared Friday at a race & higher education discussion at Daemen College.
Credit WBFO News photo by Eileen Buckley

Zane said is not very optimistic that Congress will vote on reforms especially in a major election year.

"That we are being measured by some things that I don't think get at the heart of why we exist and I think the Higher Ed Reauthorization Act goes in that direction, because I think some of the proposals coming out are based upon the fact that we cost too much, we're not worth it," noted Zane.

Zane and other college leaders gathered at Daemen College in Amherst Friday for a discussion on race and higher education. That's where they also discussed of the Higher Education Reauthorization Act.

"It usually is said, with a finger pointing at the colleges, as if we set out to gouge students or something, which is not the case," said Gary Olson, Daemen College President. 

Daemen College played host to the conversation on its campus in Amherst.
Credit WBFO News photo by Eileen Buckley

Olson said many in higher education are 'jumping through hoops' to try to make college more affordable.  They are looking to the federal government for help to provide more financial assistance in the future. 

"So here's an opportunity to fix a lot of things and the way you fix it is to make sure there is more money coming into the financial aid situation. 

Buffalo State President Katherine Conway-Turner says the reauthorization vote will be about 'economic diversity'.

Buffalo State President Katherine Conway-Turner & Regent Catherine Fisher Collins participated in a panel discussion.
Credit WBFO News photo by Eileen Buckley

"It's about low-income students, who will come through our doors and become the scientists, the doctors and the teachers and the lawyers, and the professionals that we need -- it shouldn't have a color on that," stated Conway-Turner.

But Regent Catherine Fisher Collins warns against relying too much on federal help. She said it is also important to teach how some can fund their own education.

"Community colleges really is a wonderful way to develop the skills so you can go to work as I did, from an LPN to an RN, from a community college, paying my way, paying for tuition as I needed to," added Collins.