This Week In Washington
On Tuesday, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) released a report providing some insight into the Characteristics of Graduate PLUS Borrowers. Examining data from multiple sources, GAO found that over 90 percent of Grad PLUS borrowers enrolled in either a master’s or professional doctoral degree program, with health and law as the most common fields of study. GAO stated that for the last decade, students borrowed an average of $41,530 in Grad PLUS loans, not including other federal loans. It also found that most Grad PLUS borrowers used the standard 10-year repayment plan, while about a third of borrowers had ever participated an income-driven repayment plan. When it modeled different hypothetical loan limits, GAO found that borrowers in law and health-related professional practice doctoral programs would be most negatively affected by the loan limits.
Recall that the House passed its version of a reauthorization of the Higher Education Act out of committee late last year. Its bill, known as the PROSPER Act, proposed a cap on graduate student loans at $28,500, terminated time-based loan forgiveness, and eliminated the Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) program. Read our full summary of the bill and our statement calling for substantial improvements to be made. You can get resources to help stop these policies from becoming law by visiting our #MakeTheCase advocacy campaign site.
On Monday, the U.S. Department of Education (ED) announced that it would partner with the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to proactively help eligible veterans apply for a Total and Permanent Disability discharge of their federal student loans. According to ED, it will work with the VA to identify these veterans by matching those who received federal student loans or a TEACH grant to a main VA database. ED will send a letter containing information about how to apply for a disability discharge of student loans to those borrowers who are matched against the databases. Additional information about total and permanent disability discharge can be found here.
News You Can Use
Schools are increasing the use of merit-based aid to incentivize students to enroll, but often to the detriment of those students that need financial assistance the most.
Better access to federal student-level data would provide school leaders and policymakers with critical information to help all students be successful in higher education and the workforce.
Experts, including Christopher P. Chapman, President and Chief Executive Officer of AccessLex Institute, argue (subscription required) the annual loan limits placed on graduate students in the PROSPER Act would exacerbate law schools’ existing racial and socioeconomic diversity gaps and may potentially close several law schools.
The following bills have been introduced this week for consideration by the 115th Congress (2017-2018):
H.R. 5549 – Helping Individuals Get a Higher Education while Reducing Education Debt (HIGHER ED) Act [Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-OR-6)] would raise the threshold for calculating income-driven repayment plan payments to 225 percent of the federal poverty level.
H.R. 5550 – Achieving Independence through Degrees (AID) Act [Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-OR-6)] would, among other things, support increasing student financial literacy through enhancing borrowers’ understanding of the loan process.