This Week In Washington
Happy New Year! While this first week of January has been quiet in the education policy sphere, we put together a brief recap of events late last year and a preview of what to look forward to this month.
In mid-December, the House Education and the Workforce Committee passed, along party lines, its proposed version of the reauthorization of the Higher Education Act (HEA). 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.
Also, late last year, President Trump signed into law the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act. The law does not contain many of the problematic provisions affecting higher education students that were in the originally proposed bills, but it does tax some large private college endowments.
As for this month, Congress has a host of government financing and policy-related challenges that must be handled soon. The House has yet to bring the PROPSER Act to the floor for a vote, and it is unclear when leadership will do so. Meanwhile, the Chairman of the Senate education committee, Lamar Alexander (R-TN), has indicated he wants to start working on its version of an HEA reauthorization bill early this year. We expect hearings and negotiations to occur over the next few months.
Also, January 19th is the deadline for government funding to cease for the Fiscal Year 2018. Congress must pass appropriations bills or extend the deadline by that date or risk a government shutdown. Along with that, Congress hopes to reach a deal to raise spending caps for future years, raise the national debt ceiling, enact a solution for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) recipients, fund disaster recovery aid, and tackle a host of other time-sensitive priorities.
News You Can Use
AccessLex Institute and the Urban Institute released research briefs on the borrowing patterns of graduate and professional students, as well as how students finance their advanced degrees. The briefs indicate, among other things, that master of arts and master of education students borrow less money than medical and law school students, but they also have lower earnings.
The following bills were recently introduced for consideration by the 115th Congress (2017-2018):
H.R. 4715 – Truth in Tuition Act [Rep. Matt Cartwright (D-PA)] would require higher education institutions to provide students with tuition levels for a single academic year, including net costs and a nonbinding multi-year estimate of new costs.
S. 2258 – Domenic’s Law [Sen. Rob Portman (R-OH)] would allow a parent whose child develops a total and permanent disability to qualify for tax-exempt student loan forgiveness.