DC Shuttle …
Justice Dept Memo Suggests Lawsuit on College Discrimination. A leaked document suggested that the U.S. Justice Department may soon begin investigating whether colleges are discriminating in the way they use race in admissions. An internal Justice Department posting seeking lawyers for “investigations and possible litigation” relating to university affirmative action policies was leaked to the New York Times and caused significant uproar. The Justice Department tried to tamp down those fears in comments suggesting the investigation was limited to a single case, Politico reports. Reports suggested that the Justice Department would pursue cases of discrimination against white applicants. The Supreme Court has ruled multiple times that schools can use race as a factor in admissions.
Forever GI Bill Passes Senate. The Senate passed the Forever GI Bill (S. 1598) by unanimous consent, which would allow veterans to access education benefits from the GI Bill for their entire lives. The legislation passed the House a week earlier. The legislation would: restore benefits to veterans whose for-profit colleges closed; increase funding for veterans studying science, technology, engineering or math programs; and boost veterans’ educational assistance for National Guard and Reserve troops. The legislation would create a pilot program focusing on technology and computer programs, expanding funding for veterans to enroll with nontraditional education providers like coding boot camps. President Donald Trump said he plans to sign the legislation, Politico reports.
Senate Confirms Peter Oppenheim to Assistant Secretary at Ed Dept. The Senate confirmed by unanimous consent President Trump’s nominee to be assistant secretary of education for legislation, Peter Oppenheim, a former aide to Senator Lamar Alexander (R-TN). The Senate approved dozens of Trump nominees in bulk as part of an agreement reached between Democrats and Republicans. Oppenheim was the senior education policy advisor to the Senate HELP Committee during the process of drafting and passing the Every Student Succeeds Act, the Child Care and Development Block Grant Act of 2014 and the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act.
Ed Dept Cancels One Loan Servicer Plan Amid Controversy. The U.S. Education Department announced it is canceling for now its search for one company to handle all federal student loans, the New York Times reports. The announcement came after a bipartisan group of senators introduced legislation the previous week that would prohibit a department plan to have all federal student loans handled by a single company. The bill (S. 1675) would halt the department’s search for a single student loan servicer, which Education Secretary Betsy DeVos announced in May. The bill also would amend the Higher Education Act to require the department to contract with multiple servicers. There are currently nine student loan servicing companies, whose federal contracts will expire in 2019. An Education Department spokesman had said the department was hoping to award a contract to a single servicer by this fall. Senators sponsoring the bill said having a single servicer handle the $1.3 trillion in student loans would decrease competition and lead to poor service quality for borrowers. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) said in a statement, “The Department of Education’s plan to reduce the number of contracted student loan servicers to just one would reduce the quality of assistance, make it harder for borrowers to manage their debt, and ultimately hurt our students, their families and our economy,” The bill is sponsored by Shaheen and Sen.James Lankford (R-OK), both of whom sit on the Senate Appropriations Labor-HHS-Education Subcommittee, and Senators Roy Blunt (R-MO) and Elizabeth Warren (D-MA). The Higher Education Loan Authority of the State of Missouri, one of the nine federal student loan servicers contracted with the government, filed a protest on July 7 with the Government Accountability Office regarding the single servicer plan.
Bill Introduced to Ease Loan Default Burden. A bipartisan group of lawmakers introduced the SIMPLE Act (Streamlining Income-driven, Manageable Payments on Loans for Education) in an effort to address student loan defaults. The bill is sponsored in the House by Reps. Seth Moulton (D-MA), Suzanne Bonamici (D-OR), Ryan Costello (R-PA) and Patrick Meehan (R-PA), and in the Senate by Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR). The legislation allows vulnerable borrowers to automatically enroll in affordable income-driven loan repayment plans, and removes paperwork requirements for totally and permanently disabled borrowers whose loans are discharged. The bill would also automate the annual process of updating borrowers’ income information while enrolled in income-driven repayment plans, Moulton said in a statement. Inside Higher Ed reports.
We publish the DC Shuttle each week featuring higher ed news from Washington collected by the New England Council, of which NEBHE is a member. This edition is drawn from the Higher Education Update in the Council’s Weekly Washington Report of Aug. 7, 2017. For more information, please visit: www.newenglandcouncil.com.