December 15, 2023

Higher Ed Policy Roundup: Vol. 7 - Issue 41

Policy and Advocacy

This Week in Washington

On Monday, a group of lawmakers sent Secretary Miguel Cardona a letter urging the Education Department (ED) to maximize the student loan debt relief it would be providing borrowers in its proposed regulation. Recall that ED released proposed language prior to its third rulemaking session to pursue debt forgiveness using the Higher Education Act that included canceling up to $10,000 of the debt of borrowers whose balances exceed the original principal balance and canceling up to $20,000 of the debt of borrowers whose income is below 225 percent of the federal poverty level. Instead, the lawmakers asked ED to:

  • Eliminate all debt of borrowers that exceeds the original principal balance;
  • Provide full cancellation, not just a waiver of excess interest, for borrowers who have repaid enough to cover their original principal;
  • Eliminate the sudden cliff that would give full relief to borrowers whose loans first entered repayment at least 20 or 25 years ago, and no relief to similarly situated borrowers;
  • Extend relief to borrowers with financial hardship and create a catch-all category for unforeseen forms of hardship;
  • Extend relief to borrowers who have been victims of student loan servicer misconduct or error; and
  • Eliminate the need for borrowers to submit burdensome applications by basing eligibility for relief on information that ED already has or that it can acquire from other agencies.

On Monday and Tuesday, ED’s third negotiated rulemaking session regarding student loan forgiveness took place. Negotiators and ED representatives disagreed on how far-reaching the forthcoming regulation should be, but out of the 16 components that the panel voted on, they reached consensus on seven.

Late last week, the Biden-Harris Administration announced that it would be providing $93 million in grant awards to Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs), Tribally Controlled Colleges and Universities (TCCUs), and Minority-Serving Institutions (MSIs). The grants will be used to support research and development and to improve completion rates for underserved students.

News You Can Use

As the average debt of graduate and professional students continues to increase each year, experts are considering reforms to federal student aid policy, such as capping Grad PLUS loans.

The National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) released new Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS) data, including statistics related to the following survey components: admissions, graduation rates, outcome measures, and student financial aid.

The Congressional Research Service published an analysis on cohort default rates and Higher Education Act Title IV eligibility.

Recent Legislation

The following bill(s) have been recently introduced for consideration by the 118th Congress (2023-2024):

H.R. 6585Bipartisan Workforce Pell Act [Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-NY-21)] would extend federal Pell Grant eligibility to certain short-term workforce programs. This expansion of the Pell Grant program would be paid for, in part, by prohibiting schools that are subject to the endowment tax from awarding federal student loans.

H.R. 6620No Taxpayer Funding for Ivy League Schools Act [Rep. Elijah Crane (R-AZ-2)] would prohibit federal funds from being provided to higher education institutions with endowment funds equaling or exceeding five billion dollars.

H.R. 6689The Student Loan Relief for Medicare and Social Security Recipients Act [Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA-30)] would forgive the student loan debt for disabled and older individuals.

H.R. 6692Students and Young Consumers Empowerment Act [Rep. Suzanne Bonamici (D-OR-1)] would establish an Assistant Director and Student Loan Borrowers Advocate as head of a statutorily mandated Office for Students and Young Consumers and empower the office to work with private and federal student loan borrowers to resolve complaints against lenders, servicers, and debt collectors.

H.R. 6704CREATES Act [Rep. Lucy McBath (D-GA-7)] would establish a grant program to assist states in building their own public credential repositories to provide greater transparency for students, job seekers, workers, and employers.