This Week In Washington
On Thursday, at a Senate Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs Committee hearing on the Semiannual Monetary Policy Report to Congress, the new Chairman of the Federal Reserve, Jerome Powell, addressed the importance of allowing students to borrow to invest in their education provided that students have high-quality information to make “informed decisions.” He also stated: “We don’t allow student loan debt to be discharged in bankruptcy. I’d be at a loss to explain why that should be the case.” He noted that student loan discharge is good monetary policy, but that it is Congress’ job to enact changes, not the Federal Reserve. This follows last week’s reporting that the Department of Education was seeking public comment on a standard used to discharge student loans in bankruptcy (subscription required).
Other than that, this week has been quiet on the relevant higher education news front. However, we want to update you on where reauthorization of the Higher Education Act (HEA) stands.
Recall, the House education committee passed its version of the HEA late last year. Its bill, known as the PROSPER Act, proposes to place an annual 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.
The Senate is working on its own version of HEA reauthorization. As we have reported, the Senate conducted hearings over the last several months about various higher education topics, including access and accountability. The Chairman and Ranking Member on the education committee, Lamar Alexander (R-TN) and Patty Murray (D-WA), sought comments from the public on what HEA should include. We understand the Chairman would like to produce a draft bill by April or “this Spring.” The Senate version of HEA must be a bipartisan bill if it is to pass, but at this moment, it is unclear whether the expected draft will reflect that reality. As the Senate works on its HEA reauthorization bill, visit our #MakeTheCase advocacy site for tips and tools to help you to get involved and call your Senators today!
News You Can Use
AccessLex Institute and the Urban Institute recently released the fifth report in a series on key topics related to graduate and professional education. This report, which explores employment and earnings outcomes among advanced degree recipients, finds, among other things, that research doctoral and professional degree recipients have lower unemployment rates and higher earnings than master’s degree recipients.
Urban Institute analysis of federal student loan data shows, among other things, that borrowers with a bachelor’s or graduate degree are less likely to use an income-driven repayment plan, in comparison to borrowers with an associate’s degree or below.
A new report from the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce exploring the gender wage gap finds disparities exist across fields, degree levels, and race/ethnicity. Within the legal field, women are concentrated in lower paying occupations: Women make up 85 percent of paralegals and legal assistants, but only 44 percent of lawyers.
No student aid-related bills were introduced this week for consideration by the 115th Congress.