Two bills aimed at improving college completion rates and increasing the state aid available to college students were endorsed Thursday by the Legislature’s Education and Cultural Affairs Committee.

The ideas came from a special commission on college affordability that met last year.

The commission put policy recommendations in one bill, L.D. 1406, and items needing additional state funding in a second bill, L.D. 1141. Sen. Rebecca Millett, D-Cape Elizabeth, said separating the items with big costs made sense, given the state’s financial situation.

“I think it’s really important that Maine makes progress on a policy level around college affordability and completion, and I would hate to see that derailed by large financial investments required by other commission recommendations,” she said.

College affordability has emerged as a critical issue nationwide, as tuition costs at state universities have increased more than 200 percent in recent decades and student loan debt has increased to more than $1 trillion.

Tuition and fees at University of Maine System schools have been frozen at about $10,000 a year for the last three years.

Both bills were endorsed by the committee, but several members voted against L.D. 1141 because of the price. The bill includes $2 million for additional work-study funds and $1.8 million for the community college system to hire more counselors to help students finish school.

“We just don’t have the money,” said Rep. Matthew Pouliot, R-Augusta, who voted against L.D. 1141. He served on the Commission to Study College Affordability and College Completion, and advocates for college affordability measures.

The policy bill calls for the state’s community college and university systems to adopt certain strategies with students, such as having structured scheduling so students can take 15 credit hours a semester to graduate in four years, providing financial help for courses completed instead of attempted, and offering more educational support to remedial students. It also would require the Finance Authority of Maine to report annually to the committee on the status of the Maine State Grant program, a needs-based grant that’s now $1,000 per college student. The commission recommended an increase to $1,500.