December 13, 2019

Higher Ed Policy Roundup: Vol. 3 - Issue 43

Policy and Advocacy

This Week In Washington

On Tuesday, the House passed a revised version of the Senate-passed amended FUTURE Act that would permanently reauthorize $255 million in annual funding for Historically Black Colleges and Universities and other minority-serving institutions. The legislation will also reduce the number of questions on the FAFSA and streamline the income-driven repayment process by allowing the Department of Education (ED) and the Internal Revenue Service to exchange student tax information. Later that evening, the Senate unanimously adopted the revised version of the bill and it now heads to President Donald Trump's desk for his signature.

The Congressional Budget Office released its highly anticipated report providing cost estimates for the College Affordability Act (CAA). Recall that CAA, the House  Democrats’ proposal to reauthorize the Higher Education Act, would allow students to exhaust their full Pell Grant eligibility on graduate studies, replace the existing loan repayment plans with a single fixed repayment plan and one income-based repayment plan, preserve the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program, require annual loan counseling, and repeal the current ban on obtaining and reporting student-level data. According to the report, CAA would “increase direct/mandatory spending by $331.9 billion over the next 10 years (2020-2029).” Although CAA passed the House Education and Labor Committee in late October, the measure must be budget neutral in order to be considered by the full House.

On Thursday, ED Secretary Betsy DeVos testified before the House Education and Labor Committee regarding ED’s failure to provide loan relief to student borrowers defrauded by their colleges. Recall that the Secretary and ED had previously been held in contempt by a federal judge for violating a preliminary injunction that halted collection on the discharged debts of former Corinthian Colleges students. The Secretary also rolled out an updated procedure for calculating debt relief that would provide defrauded students with partial loan forgiveness. The following day, NPR revealed internal ED memos that show that Secretary DeVos overruled the recommendations of ED staff to provide full debt relief for defrauded student borrowers. The new methodology was criticized by Rep. Bobby Scott (D-VA-3), chairman of the House Education and Labor Committee, as not going far enough. You can watch a replay of the hearing here.  

News You Can Use

Pew examines the shifts that some states are making in their policies on need and merit-based financial aid.

A look at how the student debt crisis has become a central issue in the 2020 presidential campaign.

A new report by the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center found that national college completion rates continue to grow, although the growth has been slower in recent years.

Is law school worth the cost? Here are some things to consider when determining whether or not to pursue a J.D.

Bloomberg Opinion columnist Brian Chappatta critiques Senator Rand Paul’s bill to let borrowers withdraw from their retirement saving plans in order to pay off student loans.


Recent Legislation

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

H.R. 5372Safety Net Health Plan Employee Student Loan Forgiveness Fairness Act [Rep. Adam Smith (D-WA-9)] clarifies that employees of safety net health plans are eligible for loan forgiveness under the PSLF program and would expand access for certain health plans.

H.R. 5368Faster Access for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) Act [Rep. Suzan DelBene (D-WA-1)] streamlines applying for student aid by providing secure and timely transfer of tax and income data from the IRS to ED during the FAFSA application process. Note: this legislation was rolled into the FUTURE Act.

H.R. 5363Fostering Undergraduate Talent by Unlocking Resources for Education (FUTURE) Act [Rep. Alma Adams (D-NC-12)] secures permanent funding for HBCUs, simplifies FAFSA, increases Pell Grant funding, and streamlines IDR plans. Note: passed the House and Senate, currently awaiting President Trump’s signature.

S. 3028 – [Sen. Jack Reed (D-RI)] – strengthens Federal-State partnerships in postsecondary education.