This Week In Washington
This week, the U.S. Department of Education (ED) released its Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) Help Tool. This new tool is aimed at helping borrowers assess whether their loans and employers qualify for PSLF. The tool assists borrowers with determining which PSLF forms they need to submit and can help partially fill out Employment Certification Forms. The tool does not allow employers or borrowers to digitally sign the forms, and it states borrowers must still submit the forms manually to FedLoan Servicing. Borrowers will need to log in using their FSA credentials to use the tool. ED recommends borrowers utilize this tool as they recertify their income to enroll or remain in income-driven repayment plans.
Through a Freedom of Information Act request, multiple media outlets obtained an unpublished report, which the Trump Administration sought to suppress from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) to ED analyzing fees assessed on financial products (e.g. bank accounts, credit cards, etc.) sold and marketed to students on college campuses by numerous financial institutions. The report highlights data on financial institutions that charged high fees to students, which may raise potential issues with an ED regulation requiring colleges to ensure that promoted products serve the best financial interests of their students. ED tried to rebut the notion that it was not enforcing its rules to favor financial institutions. Congresswoman Maxine Waters (D-CA), the incoming chair of the House Committee on Financial Services, released a statement saying she “intend[s] to get to the bottom of this matter and hold the Trump Administration accountable for any actions that have harmed student borrowers and America’s consumers.”
After last week’s deal to extend funding for the federal government until December 21st, it appears the Legislative and Executive branches are at an impasse with no immediate resolution in sight. This week, Democratic leaders and President Trump met to discuss avoiding a government shutdown, but the meeting did not yield any significant progress. If no deal is reached by the 21st on the seven remaining appropriations bills, the federal government will shut down. Many political observers predict it may be a prolonged shutdown. However, a shutdown will not affect most education programs, because the education funding bill was signed into law earlier this year.
News You Can Use
National Public Radio interviewed higher education financing experts who point out that research shows that increased federal student aid has not driven up tuition prices, except for in the private for-profit sector.
The New York Times profiled a teacher who, after a long struggle to have his qualifying payments acknowledged, successfully received forgiveness through the new Temporary Expanded Public Service Loan Forgiveness program.
The Student Borrower Protection Center released a report on the growing number of unaddressed complaints made by student loan borrowers to the CFPB. The report highlights the problems that exist for borrowers and recommends improvements to servicing standards and coordinated federal and state oversight.
A Georgetown Law professor disputes ED’s claim that it cannot cancel the loans of disabled borrowers because of state tax consequences. The professor’s position is one that AccessLex Institute has supported in the past.
There were no relevant student-aid related bills recently introduced for consideration by the 115th Congress (2017-2018).