FAFSA … It’s That Simple?

DC Shuttle …

FAFSA Simplification Hearing and Bill. The Senate Health, Education Labor & Pensions (HELP) committee will hold a hearing on Nov. 28 to take a look at simplifying the free application for federal student aid (FAFSA). The committee will hear from witnesses representing researchers, students, schools and financial aid professionals on proposals to simplify the FAFSA. Committee Chair Lamar Alexander (R-TN) has for years pushed to shorten the form and said he will again file a bill to reduce the form to just two questions. At a hearing last week, Alexander said his measure has the support of Senators Michael Bennet (D-CO), Richard Burr (R-NC), Angus King (I-ME), Cory Booker (D-NJ) and Johnny Isakson (R-GA). House Democrats filed their own bill to simplify the FAFSA. That bill, introduced by Rep. Lisa Blunt Rochester (D-DE), would create three pathways based on the complexity of a student’s finances. The bill, H.R. 4416, eliminates financial questions for those families already receiving a means-tested benefit.

Senate Questions Ed Dept Nominees. The Senate HELP Committee held a hearing to consider nominations for the U.S. Department of Education. The Trump administration has nominated Mick Zais to be deputy secretary and Jim Blew to be assistant secretary of the Office of Planning, Evaluation and Policy Development. The two took many questions from members of the HELP Committee about their support for vouchers and charter schools. Sen. Maggie Hassan (D-NH) told Zais she was concerned because he has been quoted as saying that 5-year-olds are “too young to learn.” Zais said he couldn’t recall ever saying it and that he’s not opposed to early childhood education.

Ed Dept Official Talks ESSA. U.S. Education Department Acting Assistant Secretary of the Office of Elementary and Secondary Education Jason Botel, speaking to the Council of Chief State School Officers, said the department is working to design applications for two new pilot programs created by the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) that will allow states and school districts to experiment with innovative tests and weighted student funding formulas. Botel also stressed that STEM and financial literacy are two big priorities for the Trump administration. He told school leaders that federal feedback on ESSA plans submitted to the agency this fall would be released in the next couple weeks.

Gainful Employment. An Education Department rulemaking committee met for the first time this past Monday to negotiate the Trump administration’s replacement for a package of Obama-era regulations known as “borrower defense to repayment,” Inside Higher Ed reports. The Office of the Inspector General has internally objected to the Trump administration’s postponement of certain provisions of the “gainful employment” and “borrower defense to repayment” rules, according to an Oct. 31 letter to lawmakers. The Education Department’s independent watchdog has objected to parts of DeVos’ delay of Obama-era regulations aimed at curbing abuses by for-profit colleges. The Inspector General letter expressed concerns about the delay of specific provisions that were aimed at combating waste, fraud and abuse in the student aid programs or protecting taxpayers.

Ed Dept, Parents and Teachers Meet to Discuss School, Discipline. A group of teachers and parents met with Trump administration education officials to discuss guidance aimed at ensuring school districts aren’t discriminating against students while disciplining them. A directive issued in 2014 sought to confront the systemic problem whereby low-income students, minority students and students with disabilities are disciplined, suspended out-of-school and expelled more often than their more affluent peers. The teachers and parents argued the counterpoint that such policies can keep dangerous children in schools, posing a physical threat to students and staff and creating a disruptive learning environment.

Data on International Students in U.S. International students studying at U.S. colleges and universities contribute $36.9 billion to the U.S. economy and support 450,331 jobs, according to an analysis by NAFSA: Association of International Educators. For every seven international students enrolled in the states, three U.S. jobs are created and supported by spending occurring in the higher education, accommodation, dining, retail, transportation, telecommunications and health insurance sectors.

Report on GI Serving Institutions. Of the institutions that serve at least 100 GI Bill recipients, less than half graduate the majority of their students within eight years, according to a new analysis from Third Way, a centrist think tank.

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 Nov. 20, 2017. For more information, please visit: www.newenglandcouncil.com.



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