October 18, 2019

Higher Ed Policy Roundup: Vol. 3 - Issue 37

Policy and Advocacy

This Week In Washington

On Tuesday, House Democrats released their proposal to reauthorize the Higher Education Act (HEA). The College Affordability Act would, among other things, allow students to exhaust their full Pell Grant eligibility on graduate studies and would replace the existing loan repayment plans with a single fixed repayment plan and one income-based repayment plan. The Act would also preserve the Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) program, require annual loan counseling and repeal the current ban on obtaining and reporting student-level data. Democrats’ proposal stands in stark contrast to the Senate Republican HEA reauthorization bill which took a piecemeal approach to reauthorization. Read AccessLex Institute’s statement on the College Affordability Act here.

The House Committee on Education and Labor released a report examining the failed implementation of the PSLF program. The report, “Broken Promises: How the Department of Education Failed America’s Public Servants,” highlights that "the Education Department ignored early warnings from internal staff that could have prevented the disastrous implementation of the [PSLF] program." Also included in the report were audits completed by Department of Education (ED) staff in 2016 and 2017. The previously unreleased audits show that the loan servicer, FedLoan, incorrectly classified employers, missed qualifying payments and provided incorrect information to borrowers.

NPR reported this week that in early 2018 when the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) sent examiners into loan servicing companies to try to fix the PSLF program, ED blocked it getting the information it needed. ED told loan servicing companies not to share information with the CFPB, citing privacy concerns. As a result, the CFPB was unable to identify problems with the PSLF program and help fix them.

News You Can Use

Despite the wealth of institutional, state and federal data that could be used to improve student success, more needs to be done to prepare school administrators to effectively use it.

Recent Legislation

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

H.R.4645Public Service Loan Forgiveness Inclusion Act [Rep. Bill Foster (D-IL-11)] would expand the types of repayment plans that would qualify for loan forgiveness under the PSLF program.

H.R.4662Accountability in Student Loan Data Act [Rep. Katie Porter (D-CA-45)] would improve reporting requirements for institutions of higher education on the number of graduates who cannot repay their student loans to prevent institutions from artificially deflating the numbers.

H.R.4670Simplifying Student Loans Act [Rep. Susan Wild (D-PA-7)] would replace the existing repayment plans with one fixed repayment plan and one income-based repayment plan.