Earlier this week, the House passed the “College Opportunity and Affordability Act” (a copy of the bill is here). House Speaker Nancy Pelosi issued a press release (available here) in which she predicted the bill’s impact:
Making college more affordable is essential to building a strong middle class, ensuring America’s competitiveness by investing in a new generation of innovators, and creating good paying jobs here at home. The New Direction Congress is building on last year’s historic investments in college affordability today by helping hold down rising tuition costs, simplifying the financial aid application process, and reforming unscrupulous student lending practices.
From what I can tell so far, this doesn’t even come close to the G.I. bill. Students will be able to borrow more (but with a simpler form) and universities will continue to raise their tuitions. Lenders will still lend, but maybe make a few more disclosures in 6 point font on the reverse of a triplicate form. I’m not impressed by this bill. All students, and law students in particular, will still be swimming in debt; therefore many will not have economic flexibility to pursue public interest, government or advocacy work.
I’d love to see the results of a law school experiment a la Harvard College. If legal education were free, how would that alter graduates’ career choices? How would that destabilize the traditional hierarchies of legal education (U.S. News, etc.)? How would that alter our profession? How would that alter our views of ourselves and the possibilities for our communities?