PEABODY-College should be affordable and the federal government should help those who can’t pay for it, says U.S. Rep. John F. Tierney, a Salem Democrat and senior member of the House Education and Labor Committee, who this week joined colleagues in voting for the College Opportunity and Affordability Act.The legislation essentially renews the Higher Education Act of 1965, which authorizes the federal government’s involvement in post-secondary education and includes key student financial-aid programs.”Attending and graduating from college should not be an impossible dream in America. Yet, students continue to confront skyrocketing tuitions that may force them to make difficult and potentially life-altering decisions,” said Tierney. “Some students end up taking on substantial debt, while others put their hopes of pursuing higher education on hold. Others may forgo college completely because of its cost.”Tierney said he has worked to make college more affordable and accessible so that students can achieve their educational and professional goals. The proposed legislation includes the following initiatives: Encourage colleges to rein in price increases and provide consumers with helpful information; restore integrity and accountability to the student loan industry; simplify the federal student aid application process; make textbook costs more manageable; expand college access and support for low-income and minority students; increase college aid and support for veterans and military families; ensure equal college opportunities for students with disabilities; boost campus safety and disaster readiness plans; encourage colleges to adopt sustainable and energy-efficient practices; and strengthen our workforce and our competitiveness.A provision crafted by Tierney and included in the bill, compels states to maintain their financial support of public higher-education institutions without supplanting their share with federal aid or raised tuitions. It does not impact any financial assistance already received by the state or institution of higher learning.Tierney also inserted language to address college endowments and their growth over the past 20 years. He has asked that the Secretary of Education be required to gather data and report back to Congress on these endowments. “This information will determine if endowments, funded by tax-deductible dollars, are being used to appropriately advance higher-education goals.”The Senate passed a version of the bill last year. Both pieces of legislation were bound for a conference committee to hammer out the differences before it returns to Congress for a final vote.