October 11, 2019

Higher Ed Policy Roundup: Vol. 3 - Issue 36

Policy and Advocacy

This Week In Washington

Congress is in recess and will not be back in session until October 15.

House Democrats are said to be close to releasing their comprehensive Higher Education Act reauthorization proposal. While no language has been released, the expectation is that the bill will be similar to that of the Aim Higher Act that was introduced in 2018. You can help #MakeTheCase to your members of Congress by vocalizing your support for policies that would benefit students and institutions with our online advocacy tool.

Last week, Representatives Katie Porter (D-CA-45) and Gerry Connolly (D-VA-11) sent a letter to the Department of Education requesting a timeline for implementation of the Government Accountability Office (GAO)’s recommendations on improving the Temporary Expanded Public Service Loan Forgiveness (TEPSLF) program. Recall that GAO released a report finding that 99 percent of TEPSLF program applicants were denied loan forgiveness. The representatives expressed serious concerns over the GAO’s findings and, in a press release, Porter stated that “it was never Congress’s intent to make these programs functionally inaccessible, which the Department has ensured by erecting a series of barriers throughout the application and approval processes.”

Recently, the Office of Federal Student Aid (FSA) released a series of updates to the quarterly application, disbursement, and portfolio reports. The data released showed that the Direct Loan (DL) portfolio represented nearly 82 percent of the outstanding loan portfolio, and that approximately 7.7 million DL borrowers were enrolled in Income-Driven Repayment plans (an 8 percent increase since June 2018).

News You Can Use

A new report from the American Enterprise Institute analyzing the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) complaints database finds that the CFPB automatically categorizes all complaints about a federal student loan as a loan servicing issue regardless of whether the issue is under the loan servicers’ control.

Recent Legislation

The following bill(s) have been recently introduced for consideration by the 116th Congress (2019-2020):

H.R.4607 — [Rep. Josh Harder (D-CA-10)] would make certain employment as a health care practitioner eligible for public service loan forgiveness.

H.R.4608 Pell Plus Act of 2019 [Rep. Derek Kilmer (D-WA-06) and Susan W. Brooks (R-IN-05)] would amend the Higher Education Act to create a Pell Plus program that would provide a Pell Grant bonus to low-income undergraduate students in their third and fourth years on a path to on-time graduation.

H.R.4627Student Borrower Advocate Act [Rep. Mary Scanlon(D-PA-5)] would amend the Higher Education Act to establish the Office of the Borrower Advocate that would provide timely assistance to borrowers regarding federal student loans.