In January, Rep. Bobby Scott (D-Va.) became chair
of the House Committee on Education and Labor.
In a Q&A with Community College Journal, Scott
discusses the committee’s priorities and community colleges’ role in providing affordable education and contributing to the American workforce.
CCJ: As chair of the Committee on Education and
Labor, what are your priorities this session?
Rep. Scott: My top priority is to shift the committee’s focus back to improving the lives of
students, workers and their families. This committee has a responsibility to strengthen access
to the building blocks of a strong middle class:
quality and equity in education, fair wages and
decent benefits for workers, and access to affordable health care.
Through legislation, hearings and oversight,
we will advance our vision of a country where
everyone can succeed.
CCJ: What do you see as the role of community
colleges in solving the growing problem of student
debt? What is the role of the federal government?
Rep. Scott: As open-access institutions, com-
munity colleges have long played an integral
role in educating an incredibly diverse student
body, many of whom are low-income students,
first-generation students, veterans, older under-
graduates and student parents.
Despite this fact, community colleges are
chronically underfunded and have experienced
a 14 percent decrease in state investment over the
last decade. This trend hurts nearly two-thirds of
the nation’s low-income postsecondary students
who enroll in community colleges and are now
expected to contribute a large share of their
income toward paying for higher education.
Such a glaring disparity demands the federal
government’s attention. The federal government
has a key role to play in reversing the trend of
state disinvestment. To address this, Democrats
introduced the Aim Higher Act last Congress,
which included a federal-state partnership that
would incentivize states to reinvest in their
public institutions and provide tuition-free community college for all students. It also included
additional funding to ensure that our community colleges can effectively support students
from access to completion.
CCJ: We have been talking about the
reauthorization of the Higher Education Act
(HEA) for quite some time. What do you expect
this year in terms of HEA?
Rep. Scott: When the Higher Education Act was
passed in 1965, it was designed to ensure that
qualified students would not be denied a higher
education because they could not afford it. Our
primary goal is to restore the original intent of
the Higher Education Act, to ensure that every
student around the country, regardless of circumstance, can graduate with a quality degree or
credential without the burden of unaffordable
debt. This requires action in three key areas.
First, we must make higher education more
affordable by expanding financial support for
students and incentivizing states to reinvest in
their public institutions. Second, we must hold all
institutions accountable for providing high-quality instruction while cracking down on predatory,
low-quality institutions. Third, we must create the
right incentives for institutions to provide services
that help students complete their education on
time and successfully enter the workforce.
Rep. Bobby Scott
REP. BOBBY SCOTT