July 2, 2020

Higher Ed Policy Roundup: Vol. 4 - Issue 24

Policy and Advocacy

This Week In Washington

On Tuesday, Senate Democrats introduced a COVID-19 relief package allocating $132 billion for higher education. If passed, the bill would prohibit the U.S. Department of Education (ED) from preventing students who don’t qualify for financial aid from receiving emergency funding. Recall that ED published a new interim final rule codifying guidance that requires colleges to exclude students who don’t qualify for federal student aid from receiving emergency grants authorized under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act. The Senate is not expected to begin negotiations on a relief package until after the July 4 recess.  

The Government Accountability Office (GAO) released a report titled “COVID-19: Opportunities to Improve Federal Response and Recovery Efforts,” which identified how federal agencies administered the $2.6 trillion in COVID-19 relief that was appropriated by Congress. The report found that, although ED provided schools with nearly all of the funding that was allocated to them by Congress, ED’s evolving communications may have delayed schools from distributing the funds to students. In response, ED characterized the sections of the report related to ED as “inaccurate, flawed, incomplete, and unfair.” 

On Friday, the House failed to override the President’s veto on the Congressional Review Act resolution of disapproval intended to block the borrower defense rule from taking effect. The 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, took effect on July 1.  In related news, a judge in Massachusetts ordered ED to cancel thousands of defrauded borrowers’ student loans under the borrower defense rule.

The Office of Federal Student Aid announced new updates to its online tools for borrowers. Newly added is an employer database that will allow borrowers pursuing Public Service Loan Forgiveness to input an employer’s Employer Identification Number to determine the employer’s eligibility. 

News You Can Use

A study from the Student Borrower Protection Center found new evidence that student debt is exacerbating racial inequality in America.

The Bipartisan Policy Center is pitching four policy ideas that would promote racial equity in higher education.

Nelnet and Great Lakes will no longer service federal student loans after December 2020.

Recent Legislation

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

H.R.7433Military Spouse Student Loan Deferment Act [Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-NY-21)] would allow military spouses of active duty servicemembers to defer their student loan obligations for 90 days, interest free, while they are transitioning through a permanent change of station move.