This Week In Washington
The Internal Revenue Service’s (IRS) tool to order a tax transcript is currently out of commission, impacting some students applying for or receiving financial aid. The tool, which has been down since late December, allows students who need to verify information they manually put on their applications for federal aid. Without the tool, schools cannot process some students’ loans or grants because the students cannot complete the verification process. The IRS says the tool has been offline “due to scheduled annual maintenance,” and that this issue is unrelated to the partial government shutdown. The IRS says the tool is expected to be restored by early next week. Relatedly, the U.S. Department of Education (ED) unveiled verification guidance that it originally announced at its financial aid conference in November. Under this guidance, ED will provide institutions with greater flexibility regarding their verification procedures.
ED will begin its massive series of higher education negotiated rulemaking next week, during which selected negotiators will debate a host of proposed regulations ED would like to enact. Some topics to be discussed include: accreditation, credit hours, distance learning, religious institutions and more. The rulemaking will last for several months and ED is expected to promulgate draft rules later in 2019. We will keep you abreast of any pertinent developments or proposed rules that may affect law schools and students.
Late last week, four Democratic Senators, led by Sen. Doug Jones (D-AL), sent a letter to over 100 higher education stakeholders to solicit ideas about how to address the problem of minorities carrying a disproportionate amount of federal student loan debt. The letter notes that students of color are more likely to borrow more, and are less likely to repay their loans than their white counterparts, thus creating a need to address these gaps. The Senators asked for stakeholders’ “assistance in defining specific proposals the federal government can take to address these disparities.” Specifically, they sought “expertise, insights, and proposals for protecting and empowering students of color, and student borrowers of color, and making higher education more equitable for all.”
News You Can Use
According to a new poll by POLITICO and the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, the majority of Americans—both Democrat and Republican—agree that lessening student debt should be a top education priority for the new Congress.
A new research study in the Journal of Family and Economic Issues found that student loan borrowers who had received financial education were less likely to be late on their student loan payments.
The following bill(s) have been recently introduced for consideration by the 116th Congress (2019-2020):
H.R. 63 – [Rep Jim Banks (R-IN-3)] would direct the Secretary of Education to develop a plain language disclosure form for borrowers of federal student loans.
H.R. 231 – [Rep. Nydia Velazquez (D-NY-7)] would provide up to three years of student loan deferral for startup business founders and up to $20,000 in loan forgiveness for entrepreneurs that create new ventures in economically distressed areas.