Hill Taken By Student Loan Bills, White House Rating System

DC Shuttle …

Senate Banking hearing on student loan servicing. The Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee’s Subcommittee on Financial Institutions and Consumer Protection held a hearing on the difficulties for student loan borrowers. The hearing focused on loan servicers and how borrowers and veterans negotiate repayment. Senators and witnesses said that action should be taken against servicers that break the law. Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and others called for passage of her Bank on Students Emergency Loan Refinancing Act which has become part of the legislative package that Democrats are pushing before midterms.

Senate Budget hearing on student debt burden. The Senate Budget Committee held a hearing on the impact that student loan debt held by borrowers is having on the economy. Rohit Chopra, student loan ombudsman at the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) testified. At the hearing, lawmakers addressed how student loan debt has lasting repercussions for young adults, and holds back the economy by limiting borrowers’ economic activity. Committee Chair Patty Murray (D-WA) and other Democrats called on Congress to ease the burden of student loan debt by passing legislation allowing borrowers to refinance their federal student loan debt.

Student loan interest rate bill expected in Senate. Senate leaders are expected to bring up a bill (S. 2292) this week that would revamp student loan financing, although it is unlikely an overhaul of the process will be enacted this year within a higher education reauthorization bill. The bill, sponsored by Sen. Warren, would allow students to refinance their student loans to lower rates. On Wednesday, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimated that about half of all outstanding federal loans, which amount to $460 billion, and private loans, at $60 billion, would be refinanced under the bill. Spending on student loans would increase by almost $56 billion in FY 2015, and total deficits would rise for the first few years after enactment, when most students would apply for refinancing, according to the estimate. Deficits would then decline by $22 billion from FY 2015 to 2024, CBO said. Education Secretary Arne Duncan and Jill Biden, a long-time English professor, hosted a discussion on college loans and affordability with economists, students and student advocates in the White House Roosevelt Room.

Commerce, Justice and Science appropriations bill approved by Senate committee. The Senate Appropriations Committee’s Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice and Science marked up the FY 2015 Commerce, Justice and Science appropriations bill. The bill was approved by voice vote in subcommittee, then  marked up in the full Committee and approved by a vote of 30 to 0. A summary of the legislation is available on the committee’s website. Funding under the legislation totals more than $51 billion in proposed discretionary budget authority, equal to levels in the House bill (H.R. 4660), which passed May 30. Science agencies supported by the bill include the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), the National Science Foundation (NSF), the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), and the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST). The bill provides $7.2 billion for the NSF and $900 million for NIST.

College Rating System – The New England Council Higher Education Committee wrote a letter to Secretary of Education Duncan, identifying concerns with the development of a college rating system that the administration hopes will increase accountability. The Higher Education Committee offered principles for developing a higher education rating system and sent letters to the New England Congressional delegation on the issue. Inside Higher Education reports that current progress is not pleasing many is the higher education sector.

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 June 9, 2014.

Founded in 1925, the New England Council is a nonpartisan alliance of businesses, academic and health institutions, and public and private organizations throughout New England formed to promote economic growth and a high quality of life in the New England region. The Council’s mission is to identify and support federal public policies and articulate the voice of its membership regionally and nationally on important issues facing New England. For more information, please visit: www.newenglandcouncil.com.


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