May 15, 2020

Higher Ed Policy Roundup: Vol. 4 - Issue 17

Policy and Advocacy

This Week In Washington

This week, House Democrats released the Health and Economic Recovery Omnibus Emergency Solutions (HEROES) Act, a $3 trillion proposal providing additional relief to individuals, states, and local governments in the wake of COVID-19. The bill is expected to be voted on and passed in the House on Friday, May 15th, but there is little chance of it passing in the Senate. The HEROES Act would:

  • Extend the suspension of federal student loan payments with no interest accrual through September 30, 2021, and provide this relief to commercially held Federal Family Education Loans (FFEL), Perkins loans, and Health and Human Services (HHS) student loans.
  • Provide a 30-day transition period for federal student loans where any payments that are missed after payment suspension ends will not result in collection fees and will not be reported to consumer reporting agencies.
  • Extend the recertification period for borrowers in income-driven repayment plans to December 30, 2021.
  • Provide federal and private student loan borrowers who were economically distressed on March 12 with $10,000 of debt forgiveness.

On Tuesday, the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee held a hearing with expert public health officials to discuss how to safely reopen schools and work amidst the COVID-19 pandemic. After telling NBC’s Meet the Press that the country’s current testing capacity is inadequate to reopen large college campuses, Chairman Lamar Alexander (R-TN) said during the hearing that "All roads back to school and work go through testing." While acknowledging the need for additional testing, Ranking Member Patty Murray (D-WA) said schools and students will also need sufficient personal protective equipment, clear detailed guidance on how to reopen safely, and equal access to resources and support for all students, such as broadband capability. When asked about reopening schools this fall, Dr. Anthony Fauci, Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, advised schools to be very realistic about that possibility and said that having a treatment or vaccine by the fall is “a bridge too far.” He did not, however, say that schools should not reopen without a vaccine. He said that reopening would depend on testing capacity and “the dynamics of the outbreak” in the region where the school is located.

News You Can Use

Federal student loan interest rates fall to new record lows.

Court filings show that ED is still garnishing wages over defaulted student debt despite Congress suspending the practice in the CARES Act.

The COVID-19 outbreak may exacerbate already declining graduate school enrollment.

Recent Legislation

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

H.R. 6825Teacher Loan Forgiveness Improvement Act [Rep. Elaine Luria (D-VA-2)] would allow qualifying teachers to be eligible for up to $30,000 in student loan relief.

H.R. 6814 Supporting Connectivity for Higher Education Students in Need Act [Rep. Anna Eshoo (D-CA-18)] would provide $1 billion to colleges and universities to enhance ongoing distance learning capacity for students in need – like purchasing Wi-Fi hotspots, routers, laptops, or modems – during the COVID-19 pandemic. A companion bill, S. 3701, was also introduced by Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN).