WEST CHESTER, PA, December 4, 2017 — AccessLex Institute is deeply disappointed in several proposals contained in the Higher Education Act reauthorization bill released on Friday. As currently drafted, the bill represents a meaningful retreat by the federal government of its support and commitment to students pursuing graduate and professional education--just at the time when the need for advanced education and training is becoming even more essential to our country’s future.
AccessLex Institute urges the committee to modify the bill in a manner to better ensure access to advanced education, particularly for historically underrepresented minorities and economically disadvantaged students, and to better support affordability for those graduate and professional students who perform public service.
At issue specifically, the bill proposes to substantially reduce the amount of loan funding available under the Grad PLUS loan program, and eliminate the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program, as well as the time-based loan forgiveness under income-driven repayment plans.
Lowering the cap of the Grad PLUS loan program will force many students to borrow from private sector lenders, returning the nation to an environment where many low- and middle-income individuals will be unable to obtain a student loan under reasonable terms, or even obtain a loan at all.
Eliminating the Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) program, which encourages graduates to enter and persist in critical, underserved sectors, would worsen existing gaps in access to vital public services and the quality of delivery of such services.
And while AccessLex Institute agrees that income-driven repayment plans should be simplified, the proposed bill would eliminate a provision that allows borrowers to have part of their debt forgiven after making payments for 20 or 25 years, ensuring for many financially-challenged, and even insolvent borrowers, a literal lifetime of debt given the effective nondischargability of student loans in bankruptcy proceedings.
AccessLex is encouraged to see provisions in the bill that would enhance financial aid counseling and require borrowers to participate in counseling each year that he or she receives a federal loan. We believe strongly that students must have the necessary information to make the best financial decisions, and for some students the minimum counseling requirements are simply not enough. We have long supported changes to provide borrowers with more and better information, and we made similar recommendations to the U.S. Department of Education earlier this year.
“We applaud Congress’ moving forward with the reauthorization of the Higher Education Act and support its core premise to regularly update programs and policy to improve access,” said Christopher P. Chapman, President and Chief Executive Officer of AccessLex Institute. “But the measures as drafted will frustrate access for many Americans, including those most challenged to gain access to law schools and other advanced education. We stand ready and look forward to working with the committee to recommend improvements to the bill that will advance its policy goals while furthering the promise of access and affordability central to the Higher Education Act.”
See our full set of Higher Education Act policy recommendations here.
About AccessLex Institute:
In partnership with its nearly 200 ABA-approved Member law schools, improving access and positively influencing legal education have been at the heart of AccessLex Institute's mission since 1983. The AccessLex Center for Legal Education ExcellenceSM advocates for policies that make legal education work better for students and society alike, and conducts research on the most critical issues facing legal education today. The AccessLex Center for Education and Financial CapabilitySM offers on-campus and online financial education programming and resources to help students confidently manage their finances on their way to achieving personal and professional success. AccessLex Institute has offices in West Chester, PA, and Washington, D.C., with a team of accredited financial education counselors based throughout the United States. Learn more at AccessLex.org.