This Week In Washington
On Wednesday, the U.S. Department of Education (ED) released its new proposed regulations seeking to overhaul the federal requirements that govern institutional accreditation agencies. Essentially, these rules make it easier for some accreditors to be federally recognized and for some institutions to keep or obtain accreditation. ED says these regulations, which are a result of reaching consensus at a negotiated rulemaking session earlier this year, will “reduce the unnecessary regulatory burden associated with accreditor oversight,” but critics argue the rules would weaken protections and allow poor performing institutions to gain access to federal student loan dollars. You can submit comments on the proposed rules here until July 12th.
On Tuesday, Senator Chris Murphy (D-CT), a senior member of the Senate education committee, released his vision for institutional accountability under a reauthorized Higher Education Act. Murphy advocates for using various metrics (e.g., cohort default rate, repayment rates, etc.) depending on an institution’s circumstances to determine Title IV federal financial aid eligibility. His proposal would also prohibit institutions from admitting fewer low-income students as an end-run around the new accountability system. Read the white paper here.
On Tuesday, the House Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations held a hearing entitled “An Examination of State Efforts to Oversee the $1.5 Trillion Student Loan Servicing Market.” At the hearing, Democratic lawmakers questioned state officials who have investigated and brought enforcement actions against student loan servicers for their servicing practices and pushed for tougher oversight of the companies serving federal student loan borrowers. Though servicing is an issue of borrower repayment, Republican members focused their questioning on the price of higher education and student borrowing, rather than the practices of loan servicers. You can watch a replay of the hearing here.
News You Can Use
AccessLex Institute’s latest report, the second in a two-part series, uses federal data to show that black borrowers and Historically Black Colleges and Universities would likely be severely harmed by a move to significantly limit or eliminate federal lending to graduate and professional students.
Aaron N. Taylor, Executive Director of AccessLex Institute’s Center for Legal Education Excellence, commented on whether law schools should use adversity questionnaires in their admissions decisions to improve racial and socioeconomic diversity.
The Center for American Progress and Generation Progress released a report assessing six policy proposals to address federal student loan debt levels, with consideration to what the proposals may mean in terms of equity, simplicity, broad impact, and meaningful relief.
The following bill has been recently introduced for consideration by the 116th Congress (2019-2020):
H.R. 3102 – Helping Individuals Get a Higher Education while Reducing Education Debt Act (HIGHER ED Act) [Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-OR-4)] would simplify income-driven repayment to one plan available to all borrowers, cap monthly payments at 10 percent of discretionary income, and raise the minimum salary threshold to 225 percent of the federal poverty level. The bill would also allow borrowers to refinance their loans, reinstate subsidized loans for graduate students, and allow borrowers to have 50 percent of their loans forgiven under the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program after five years of public service.