This Week In Washington
On Tuesday, the Senate education committee held a hearing entitled “Reauthorizing the Higher Education Act: Accountability and Risk to Taxpayers,” which focused on the need to hold institutions more accountable for their students’ outcomes. Senators and witnesses agreed that program-level data is needed and must be available to students so they can better evaluate differing programs before investing time and money. The senators and witnesses also discussed implementing better accreditation standards and what a new institutional risk-sharing framework might look like. This is the latest in a series of hearings about HEA as the Senate gathers ideas before possibly releasing its version of an HEA reauthorization bill this spring.
Note: subsequent to the hearing, Chairman Alexander published a white paper outlining some of the proposals concerning accountability that were discussed at the hearing. He is seeking input from the higher education community on this topic by February 15th. More information can be found here.
Also on Tuesday, the House Education and Workforce Committee held a hearing, entitled “Protecting Privacy, Promoting Policy: Evidence-Based Policymaking and the Future of Education.” The hearing revolved around a report produced by the commission of Evidence-Based Policymaking which outlined the importance of using evidence and data when making policy. At the hearing, members expressed a desire to see higher education data disaggregated at a program level and include information like employment outcomes and earnings so that students and families can make better informed decisions. Another major theme at the hearing was protecting the privacy of students, be it through the systems housing the data or via parental consent.
Recall, this same committee passed its version of the HEA late last year. Its bill, known as the PROSPER Act, proposes to place a cap on graduate student loans at $28,500, eliminate the Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) program, and terminate time-based forgiveness for borrowers enrolled in income-driven repayment plans. Read our full summary of the bill and our statement calling for substantial improvements to be made.
On Wednesday, ED announced it was making some high-level personnel changes. Frank Brogan, a former Chancellor of the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education, has been temporarily assigned the duties of Assistant Secretary of Postsecondary Education where he will oversee ED’s Higher Education Programs. He will handle these duties until he is confirmed to be the Assistant Secretary for the Office of Elementary and Secondary Education. Also, Kathleen Smith will now be the Deputy Chief Operating Officer of the Office of Federal Student Aid (FSA). She will serve under James Manning, who was chosen to be the Acting Chief Operating Officers of FSA last week. Kathleen Smith previously served as Senior Vice President of Public Affairs, Policy and Member Services for AccessLex Institute.
Don’t forget to share with your students the date and time of our Facebook Live Chat on February 8 at 12:00 pm where they will learn more about how changes to HEA could directly impact their future.
News You Can Use
The National Center for Education Statistics released new data from the National Postsecondary Student Aid Study, where it measures how students and their families pay for postsecondary education. The study found that graduate students who pursue a professional practice doctoral degree and take out federal loans borrow an average of $45,100 to complete their program, with $25,700 coming from the Direct PLUS loan program.
No student aid-related bills were introduced this week for consideration by the 115th Congress.