This Week In Washington
Last night, Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos announced the formation of a new Strategy and Transformation unit within the Office of Federal Student Aid (FSA) intended to “improve the delivery of financial aid to millions of students and their families.” Dr. A. Wayne Johnson, the current Chief Operating Officer (COO) of FSA, will step down to lead the Office of Strategy and Transformation. James Manning, who currently serves as the Acting Undersecretary of Education, will step in as Acting COO of FSA.
The Department of Education (ED) has begun outlining the terms and is planning a pilot of its proposed new financial aid debit card to be used to disburse federal financial aid funds. As outlined in a draft solicitation document (subscription required), the card could alert students to the potential fiscal consequences of using loan dollars for purchases, and in some instances, prevent students from using the card for certain products or at particular merchants. This card, and other financial aid changes, including a mobile app, are a part of ED’s new initiative, dubbed “Next Gen,” designed to modernize federal student aid.
On Thursday, the Senate education committee held a hearing, entitled “Reauthorizing the Higher Education Act: Access and Innovation,” focused on how to help provide access to higher education for the ever-growing number of non-traditional students, and how different education models can be funded under the Higher Education Act (HEA). While being very agreeable during the hearing, Chairman Lamar Alexander (R-TN) and Ranking Member Patty Murray (D-WA) did offer divergent notions as to how simplification of the federal student loan program may impact access. This is the latest in a series of hearings to gather ideas before the Senate may release its version of an HEA reauthorization bill this spring.
The federal government shutdown that we reported on last week began at midnight on Friday, but had concluded by Monday night. A deal to continue spending at current levels was reached, but will expire on February 8. ED was prepared for this shutdown and released guidance that will likely be followed should another shutdown occur when the current funding resolution expires.
And 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.
The following bill was recently introduced for consideration by the 115th Congress (2017-2018):
H.R. 4859 – Public Service Loan Forgiveness Inclusion Act of 2018 [Rep. Bill Foster (D-IL)] would allow borrowers to have the first 60 monthly payments that a borrower made under a non-qualifying repayment plan to count towards Public Service Loan Forgiveness.