March 6, 2020

Higher Ed Policy Roundup: Vol. 4 - Issue 8

Policy and Advocacy

This Week In Washington

During remarks to a group of community college trustees, chairman of the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP), Lamar Alexander (R-TN), expressed his desire to have a bill reauthorizing the Higher Education Act (HEA) passed by his committee by the end of March. Recall that Sen. Alexander previously introduced a package of eight higher education proposals intended to update HEA. Senator Patty Murray (D-WA), ranking member of the committee, dampened hopes of the March timeline stating that “I think that's going to be difficult to do. But we are working on trying to get an agreement." You and your students can help shape the conversation by reaching out to your members of Congress and sharing priorities that should be included in an HEA reauthorization bill.

On Thursday, Department of Education (ED) Secretary, Betsy DeVos, testified before the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services (HHS), and Education for an annual hearing on ED’s budget request. During the hearing, DeVos discussed ED’s plan to implement the recently passed FUTURE Act which included meeting with the Internal Revenue Service to work on next steps. Secretary DeVos recently testified before the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, HHS, and Education where she spoke briefly about updates to the Federal Student Aid Office’s website, the rising cost of college, and the College Scorecard. You can watch a replay of the Senate hearing here.

News You Can Use

Dr. Michael Lomax, United Negro College Fund president and CEO, says despite passage of the FUTURE Act, Historically Black Colleges and Universities remain deeply under resourced.

The Education Trust released a new data analysis on the racial and ethnic gaps in college success.

Student loan officials from several states joined with over 30 advocacy groups to urge Secretary DeVos to forgive loans of students with severe disabilities.

Provisions in a new law let you use funds held in 529 plans to pay off student loan debt.

Recent Legislation

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

H.R. 6033 Pell to Grad Act [Rep. Brenda Lawrence (D-MI-14)] would extend Pell Grant use to graduate programs and increase students’ lifetime Pell Grant eligibility from 12 to a total of 16 semesters.