It has been well documented that the nation’s public colleges, universities, community colleges, and career training centers significantly boost the economic mobility of students who pursue and complete degrees and credentials after high school. The skills students acquire at these higher-education institutions lead to jobs that pay a wage premium in a modern economy. However, for many students, families, and society as a whole, decreasing state investments and increasing student-loan debt is threatening the value of a public postsecondary education—that is to say, the idea that a degree or credential beyond high school will deliver on the promise of a higher standard of living. To make sure that higher education attainment leads to improved outcomes for graduates, it is crucial that national policy choices ensure that public colleges remain affordable for low- and moderate-income Americans and student-loan debt does not overly burdened graduates as they prepare for the workforce.
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