January 15, 2021

Higher Ed Policy Roundup: Vol. 5 - Issue 1

Policy and Advocacy

This Week in Washington

Last night, President-elect Joe Biden laid out his plan to address the COVID-19 pandemic. His $1.9 trillion proposal includes $35 billion for higher education, which would be directed to public colleges and universities, as well as private Historically Black Colleges and Universities. The funding could be used for safe reopening, distance learning and emergency grants for students.

Late last week, it was reported that the incoming Biden administration plans to ask the U.S. Department of Education (ED) to extend the pause on federal student loan payments that expires on January 31, 2021. There is no word on how long the incoming administration will ask to extend the pause, but Democrats have previously supported an extension through September 2021.

On Tuesday, ED released a memo pushing back on its perceived ability to forgive student loans unilaterally. The memo states that “the Secretary does not have statutory authority to provide blanket or mass cancellation, compromise, discharge, or forgiveness of student loan principal balances, and/or to materially modify the repayment amounts or terms thereof, whether due to the COVID-19 pandemic or for any other reason.” This comes as President-elect Biden reaffirmed his support for the cancelation of $10,000 in federal student loans. With Democrats securing the majority in the Senate after the January 6 Georgia runoff elections, ED’s hesitation to forgive the loans may not be a roadblock if Democrats can pass the measure through budget reconciliation with a simple majority vote.

News You Can Use

157 law deans released a joint statement in response to last week’s violence at the U.S. Capitol, calling it an assault on the rule of law.

Incoming Biden Administration may soon get to work undoing the legacy of ED Secretary Betsy DeVos.

Recent Legislation

The following bill(s) have been recently introduced for consideration by the 116th Congress (2019-2020):

H.R. 251The Public Service Appreciation Through Loan Forgiveness Act [Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi (R-IL-8)] would allow student borrowers seeking Public Service Loan Forgiveness to receive balance and interest reductions after four years of qualifying payments instead of ten and stagger forgiveness allotments every two years thereafter until they reach full forgiveness after ten years.