This Week In Washington
The Department of Education (ED) has a plan if the federal government shuts down at midnight. Almost all executive agencies will cease most of their operations if lawmakers cannot reach a spending deal to fund the government. If a shutdown occurs, most federal financial aid programs will keep functioning because the money for them is classified as ‘mandatory spending’ and is not subject to annual appropriations. However, ED has outlined that the Office of Federal Student Aid will designate the “minimum number of employees necessary” to carry out those programs, so there may be delays in administering funds and other programmatic functions.
On Thursday, the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee conducted a hearing entitled “Reauthorizing the Higher Education Act: Financial Aid Simplification and Transparency.” During the hearing, Members of Congress and witnesses agreed that the reauthorization of the Higher Education Act (HEA) must be student focused. They discussed, among other things, the advantages and disadvantages of implementing a simplified student loan repayment system, creating a standardized financial aid award letter, and protecting the current student loan forgiveness provisions. This hearing is likely the first step in the Senate’s efforts to reauthorize HEA. Additional hearings are expected over the next few months before the Senate may release its HEA reauthorization bill.
As a reminder, in December, the House passed out of committee its version of a reauthorization of HEA. That bill, the PROSPER Act, would lower the annual cap on graduate student loans to $28,500, eliminate the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program, and terminate time-based forgiveness for borrowers enrolled in income-driven repayment plans. Read our full summary of the bill and our statement calling for substantial improvements to be made. As the Senate works on its HEA reauthorization bill, visit our #MakeTheCase advocacy site for tips and tools to help you to get involved and call your Senators today!
And tune in for our Facebook Live Chat on February 8 to learn more about how changes to HEA could directly impact the future of your students.
News You Can Use
AccessLex Institute and Gallup released a study this week on how the value of a law degree is perceived when compared to other higher education degrees. The study finds, among other things, that a law degree continues to be viewed as one of the most valuable advanced degrees.
Inside Higher Ed examines recent trends impacting law schools, including decreased enrollment and a contracting job market for recent graduates.
A new analysis on income-driven repayment (IDR) plans from Robert Kelchen, Assistant Professor at Seton Hall University, finds that borrowers who rely most heavily on IDR include those who borrowed more than $100,000 in federal loans to finance their education.
No student aid-related bills were introduced this week for consideration by the 115th Congress.