May 22, 2020

Higher Ed Policy Roundup: Vol. 4 - Issue 18

Policy and Advocacy

This Week In Washington

Yesterday, the U.S. Department of Education (ED) issued a statement regarding its guidance on the Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund (HEERF) created by the CARES Act which states that ED will not initiate any enforcement action based solely on the guidance because it lacks “the force and effect of law.” This clarification is in reference to ED’s interpretation that only Title IV-eligible students may receive HEERF emergency grants. However, it goes on to say that the language of the CARES Act, as well as any other applicable statutory terms, are “legally binding,” including the restrictions on eligibility for federal benefits, such as the HEERF grants. This means that international students, those enrolled in the DACA program and undocumented students are still ineligible for the emergency grants.

Late last week, the Office of Federal Student Aid issued updated guidance for institutions regarding interruptions of study related to COVID-19. The guidance provides additional regulatory flexibilities including those related to distance education and instructions on returning Title IV funds due to student withdrawals related to a qualifying emergency.

On Tuesday, House and Senate leaders enrolled the Congressional Review Act resolution of disapproval intended to overturn borrower defense regulations issued by ED that are set to take effect on July 1. Recall that the borrower defense rule, which establishes new standards and processes under which borrowers can have federal student loans discharged in cases of fraud or deception by an institution, came under fire for making it more difficult for defrauded borrowers to receive relief. The measure now heads to the President’s office for passage, though he has said in the past that he would veto it. 

News You Can Use

Millions of student loan borrowers could see their credit rating dinged after loan servicer makes coding error related to a CARES Act provision.

Fresh advice for academic researchers on how to successfully sway policy debates on Capitol Hill. 

The Pew Charitable Trusts is out with a report on how the coronavirus outbreak could impact government spending on higher education.

Recent Legislation

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

S. 3760Strengthening Loan Forgiveness for Public Servants During the COVID-19 Crisis Act [Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT)] would provide additional student loan debt relief to public workers, including teachers, law enforcement officers, and health care professionals. It would provide qualified borrowers with partial loan forgiveness every two years, with the final 30 percent of the loan balance forgiven after ten years.