This Week In Washington
After a brief government shutdown overnight, Congress passed a continuing resolution early this morning to keep the federal government funded until March 23. Included in this funding package is a bipartisan budget deal that raises the current limits on both defense and non-defense discretionary spending. Now, Congress must pass another bill that tells each agency what they can spend for the remainder of fiscal year (FY) 2018. Congress will then move to budgeting for FY 2019.
On that note, the president is expected to release his FY 2019 budget proposal on Monday. However, his budget was drafted long before the aforementioned Congressional budget agreement was finalized, and as a result, it may include now-outdated baseline numbers. Thus, there is a chance his budget may be delayed. We will keep you abreast of any education-related proposals that the President includes in his budget proposal.
On Tuesday, the Senate education committee held a hearing, entitled “Reauthorizing the Higher Education Act: Improving College Affordability,” that focused on ways to simplify the student aid system and how the Higher Education Act (HEA) can increase access to higher education for underrepresented students. The hearing was the latest in a series of hearings about HEA as the Senate gathers ideas before possibly releasing its reauthorization bill this spring.
For its part, the Senate Democratic Caucus released a set of principles it would like to see in the next HEA reauthorization bill. Democrats believe that HEA must make college more affordable, hold institutions accountable for student outcomes, make higher education more accessible to underrepresented students, and provide a safe learning environment for all students.
Also on Tuesday, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) released its “score”, or cost estimate, of the House PROSPER Act, finding that the bill would save $14.6 billion over 10 years. While there are changes in the bill that would cost the government money, such as limiting graduate student borrowing, eliminating origination fees, and increasing Pell Grant awards for certain students, greater savings would be found by eliminating the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program, making significant changes to income-driven repayment plans, and ending subsidized loans for undergraduates. Read our full summary of the bill and our statement calling for substantial improvements to be made.
You can also watch a recording of our Facebook Live Chat on HEA Reauthorization here. We hosted the chat yesterday, February 8, and got great engagement from the law school community. Take a look and let us know if you have other questions. We will continue to advocate strongly for policies that improve access and affordability for law school students.
This week, the Department of Education (ED) continued its negotiated rulemaking session to redraft Gainful Employment regulations. The current regulations assess whether certain programs are preparing graduates for employment that will enable them to pay back their student loans. During this week's session, negotiators discussed expanding the rule to all programs, as well as changes to the metric for evaluation, new sanctions, and disclosure requirements. The third and final round of negotiations will take place in March. ED is expected to release final regulations by November 1, 2018, with an effective date of July 1, 2019.
News You Can Use
An audit by the U.S. Department of Education's Office of Inspector General finds that the federal government may soon start to lend more money than it recoups in repayment, due to the increasing popularity (and cost) of income-driven repayment plans and other forgiveness programs.
No student aid-related bills were introduced this week for consideration by the 115th Congress.