B-School Deans, CEOs Send Trump Letter About Immigration. More than 6o top business school deans and CEOs published an open letter to the White House and Congress asking for changes to immigration policies and visa laws. The letter warns that the U.S. is falling behind in global competition for highly skilled workers. The deans and CEOs ask the prominent government officials to eliminate the “per-country” visa caps, overhaul the H-1B visa program, and design a new “heartland visa” to spur immigration of skilled workers to places confronting demographic decline. “We do not believe the U.S. has the high-skill talent it needs,” write the signees. “Without a substantial change in our approach, this deficit of skills in key fields will hinder economic growth.”
House Democrats Introduce a Comprehensive Bill to Reauthorize the HEA. The House Labor and Education Committee introduced the College Affordability Act (CAA) as its proposal to overhaul the Higher Education Act (HEA). The legislation comes more than 10 years after the last reauthorization of the HEA and at a time with bipartisan recognition and concern of the high costs and inconsistent quality of colleges that have often undermined students’ success. Committee Chair Bobby Scott (D-VA) believes this bill to be a “down payment” on tuition-free college, but is one modest enough to be passed by the Republican-held Senate and signed by the White House. The top Republican on the House Labor and Education Committee, Virginia Foxx (R-NC), said that the “bill does not address the underlying issue of exploding college costs” and would only create “burdensome requirements and bureaucratic red tape” that would further drive up costs. House Democrats estimate the CAA to cost $400 billion over 10 years. Scott plans to move to a committee markup in the coming months, with the goal of a House vote by the end of the year. The highlights of the CAA include an increase in federal student aid programs and new federal spending to help states eliminate tuition at community colleges. The bill incentivizes states to invest in higher education by creating a federal-state partnership. The bill would also expand Pell Grant eligibility, improve on the public service loan forgiveness program, and impose new accountability requirements on colleges receiving federal aid. Several Obama-era consumer protection policies would be restored under the CAA, including gainful employment and borrower defense to repayment. Read more in The Washington Post and Inside Higher Ed.
Federal Judge Criticizes DeVos for Violating Order on Corinthian College Loans. U.S. Magistrate Judge Sallie Kim sharply criticized the Education Department for violating her May 2018 order to cease in their collection of student loans of tens of thousands of students who attended the now defunct, for-profit Corinthian Colleges. “Whether it’s contempt or whether it’s sanctions, I’m going to entertain them,” said Kim during the hearing. Politico reported that in light of U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos’s landing in possible contempt of court, the department has moved to discipline employees and loan servicers over their “erroneous collection” of thousands of Corinthian College student loans. The Trump administration released a court filing that outlined why it believes the Education Department should not be held in contempt or face fines in regard to this issue. The Justice Department attorneys wrote that the Education Department “has been working diligently and in good faith to correct the errors.” The Education Department does admit its negligence in the oversight of student loan servicers, but claims no loan collection was a “willful or intentional conduct on the part of the department.” Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) has been a vocal critic of DeVos’s part of this issue and penned a letter, co-signed by Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), to the department on Oct. 11, urging it to end its contract with Navient, one of the biggest collectors of federal student loans. The senators claim that Navient has a “more than a decade-long history” of allegations of abusive consumer practices and asks that the department “not to reward Navient’s blatant disregard for borrower, tax payers, and the law.” Read more in Inside Higher Ed and Politico.
House Democrats Introduce Bill Indexing Pell Grants to Inflation. Rep. Susie Lee (D-NV) and Rep. Sean Casten (D-IL) introduced the Pell Grant Sustainability Act. The bill would ensure that federal resources for college students remain valuable throughout future inflation. In their press release, the representatives note that “from 2009 to 2018, the value of discretionary Pell Grants stayed flat while inflation rose 17 percent and college tuition went even higher.” This bill would permanently index Pell Grants to rising inflation to ensure they do not deteriorate in value for the over seven million students that utilize them.
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 Oct. 21, 2019. For more information, please visit: www.newenglandcouncil.com.