DC Shuttle …
Bipartisan Budget Act Adds Ed Funding. Following a short government shutdown overnight, both chambers voted to approve spending for the federal government. The bipartisan budget bill funds the government through March 23 and raises spending caps. The Bipartisan Budget Act of 2018 includes $4 billion for “student-centered programs that aid college completion and affordability,” according to an outline of the agreement from the minority leader. There are few details about where this new spending will be targeted. The Chronicle of Higher Education reports that the bill will fund programs that help police officers, teachers and firefighters. The new funding for higher education wasn’t included in the text of the the budget agreement (H.R. 1892) that raised overall spending caps, but was part of the underlying pact reached among congressional leaders.
HELP Committee Holds Hearing on HEA. The Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, & Pensions (HELP) held a fourth hearing regarding the reauthorization of the Higher Education Act (HEA). At the hearing, titled “Reauthorizing the Higher Education Act: Improving College Affordability,” lawmakers heard testimony from professionals with extensive backgrounds in education and public financing. Witnesses included Sandy Baum (senior fellow at the Urban Institute), Zakiya Smith (strategy director for finance and federal policy at Lumina Foundation), Jenna Robinson (president of James G. Martin Center for Academic Renewal), Robert Anderson (president of the State Higher Education Executive Officers association), and DeRionne Pollard (president of Montgomery College). Committee Chair Lamar Alexander (R-TN) opened the hearing by stating that the overarching goals for the reauthorization are to: 1) simplify FAFSA (remove it as a barrier and help students understand what they can afford), 2) allow for earlier applications for financial aid, 3) simplify repayment programs (there are currently nine different programs, making it difficult for students to understand loan system), and 4) discourage students from spending money on degrees that aren’t worth time and money. One of the biggest themes of discussion was how to lower the price of colleges nationwide and increase access while holding colleges accountable. Alexander laid out a framework for rewriting the Higher Education Act, issuing a white paper that calls for changes to accountability measures. It was noted that states are investing less in higher education and that federal student aid does not go as far as it used to. Robinson suggested that universities should bear the risk of borrowing, with Smith claiming that subjecting loans to bankruptcy “incentivizes loan lenders to loan responsibly and students to not take more.” Baum and other testifiers offered alternative solutions such as providing tax incentives to directly empower students, indexing tuition for inflation, as well as considering institutional eligibility for student-aid programs. Pollard added that Pell grants should also be pegged to inflation. Senators expressed support for reauthorization of the HEA, with modifications and updates. The House Education and Workforce Committee passed an HEA reauthorization bill in December, the PROSPER Act (H.R.4508).
PROSPER Act Under Spotlight.Inside Higher Edreports
that the higher ed community is beginning to comment on the PROSPER Act. The CBO calculated that the bill would reduce spending by $14.6 billion.
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 Feb. 12, 2018. For more information, please visit: www.newenglandcouncil.com.