This Week In Washington
In the wee hours of Tuesday night, the House Education and Workforce Committee passed, along party lines, its version of reauthorization of the Higher Education Act (HEA). At the markup, no amendments that would improve the policies impacting law students and schools (and graduate/professional education more broadly) were adopted. Recall that the bill, known as the PROSPER Act, would place a new cap on graduate student loans at $28,500, eliminate the Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) program, and terminate time-based forgiveness for borrowers enrolled in income-driven repayment (IDR) plans. Read our full summary of the bill and our statement calling for substantial improvements to be made.
The bill will now head to the full House for a vote in the future. The Senate’s education committee chairman has already indicated that his committee plans to take up drafting their version early next year. If this bill passes the full House as is, then Congress will be one step closer to enacting policies that will disproportionately affect law students and schools.
Members of Congress must hear from you, their constituents, to understand the negative impact these policies will have in higher education and to stop these proposals from becoming law.
Visit our #MakeTheCase advocacy campaign website for resources you can use to get involved!
Last Friday, a federal appeals court overturned a lower court ruling and allowed the Department of Education (ED) to resume collecting on loans from borrowers who were in default. Collections were on a temporary hold while this case was pending because the prior injunction prevented ED from assigning defaulted borrowers to their contracted debt collection companies.
This week, Republicans have said they have reached an agreement on a final tax bill to be presented on Friday and to be voted on in both chambers as early as next week. Congress hopes to pass the final bill before the end of the year. Contained in both versions are provisions that will negatively impact law (and all graduate and professional) students and institutions. However, some of these provisions have been reportedly removed from the final version of the bill. We will keep you updated, but in the meantime, read our summary of the tax proposals here.
Finally, thanks to all who participated in our Twitter chat on Wednesday to #ProtectPSLF. If you do not already, follow us on Twitter at @AccessLexInst.
News You Can Use
Mick Mulvaney, Interim Director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau announced that the consumer complaint database will be temporarily shut down due to data security concerns. Among other things, this database allowed student loan borrowers to submit complaints regarding lenders, loan servicers and debt collection agencies.
Nearly 5 million Americans are defaulting on their federal student loans, despite a strong job market and the availability of income-driven repayment options to help reduce their monthly payments.
The following bills were recently introduced for consideration by the 115th Congress (2017-2018):
H.R. 4584 [Rep. Thomas Garrett (R-VA)] would provide student loan forgiveness to borrowers who agree to delay eligibility to collect Social Security benefits.
S. 1262 -- Fairness for Struggling Students Act [Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL)] would allow private student loans to be discharged in bankruptcy.
S. 2201—Access, Success, and Persistence in Reshaping Education (ASPIRE) Act [Sen. Chris Coons (D-DE)] would incentivize the most selective institutions to improve access for low-income students and provide resources to boost completion rates at institutions that serve a disproportionately high number of low-income students.
S. 2207 – Volunteer First Responder Loan Forgiveness Act [Sen. Jon Tester (D-MT)] would expand eligibility for the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program to volunteer first responders.