This Week In Washington
On Monday at an event hosted by American Enterprise Institute (AEI), Senate education committee chairman Lamar Alexander (R-TN) outlined his agenda for reauthorizing the Higher Education Act (HEA). Senator Alexander’s top priorities are to simplify the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, to simplify student loan repayment options and to hold schools accountable for program-level student loan repayment rates. Asked multiple times about possible reforms to graduate student lending, Senator Alexander redirected the discussion to college affordability and did not speak to specific reforms to graduate student borrowing.
Senator Alexander expressed his commitment to passing a reauthorization bill by the end of 2019, which he said could be achieved by compiling bipartisan bills that have already been considered into a single piece of legislation. His stated goal is to report that legislation out of committee by spring and have the full Senate consider it this summer. From there, the Senate would conference its bill with one passed out of the House, which may look substantially different.
On Thursday at an event hosted by Inside Higher Ed, Senator Alexander reviewed his three HEA priorities and reiterated his commitment to reauthorizing HEA this year. Representative Bobby Scott (D-VA), chair of the House education committee, also expressed a willingness to reauthorize HEA but noted there are large policy differences between Democrats and Republicans about higher education. Chairman Scott said the House is not interested in only making small changes on which there is consensus, but that a rewrite would need to be comprehensive. Chairman Scott also stated his belief that the federal student loan program should not make a profit and that perhaps even more subsidies should be provided to students. He also hinted that there could be ways to push accreditors to help lower the cost of institutions' programs. Neither chairman addressed graduate or professional school or students directly.
In his second State of the Union address, President Trump did not mention higher education. However, Stacey Abrams, 2018 Democratic nominee for governor of Georgia, in the Democratic response called on the administration to “face the crippling effect of educational loans” and “invest what is necessary to unleash the power of America's greatest minds.”
News You Can Use
The Wall Street Journal reports that older Americans who borrowed to finance both their own and their children’s educations are struggling with student loan debt. Borrowers in their 60s saw the biggest increase in student loan debt between 2010 and 2017, compared to other age groups.
No relevant bills were recently introduced for consideration by the 116th Congress (2019-2020).