How Do Lawmakers Spell Relief?

By The New England Council

DC Shuttle …

Warren and Clyburn Introduce Bicameral Student Debt Relief Bill. Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and House Majority Whip James Clyburn (D-SC) introduced bicameral legislation that would expand student loan forgiveness to 42 million federal and private borrowers. The Student Loan Debt Relief Act would automatically cancel up to $50,000 of debt for households with an income under $100,000. The bill would also permit student borrowers to convert their private loans into federal loans through student loan refinancing. Warren stated that Washington is “allowing the wealthy to pay less, while burying tens of millions of Americans in mountains of student loan debt … Washington has only allowed this crisis to get worse—especially for people of color.” Warren plans to have this bill work in tandem with her proposal to eliminate all tuition costs at two- and four-year public colleges. “Once we’ve cleared out the debt that’s holding down an entire generation of Americans, we must ensure that we never have another student debt crisis again,” wrote Warren in April. Warren stated that the bill would cost the government $640 billion, which she plans to finance with her proposed annual tax of 2% to 3% on households worth more than $50 million. Read more in Education Dive.

Bipartisan Bill to Help Student Loan Borrowers Introduced in House. Reps. Seth Moulton (D-MA), Suzanne Bonamici (D-OR), Paul Mitchell (R-MI) and Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA) introduced bipartisan legislation to help student borrowers avoid defaulting on their loans. The Streamlining Income-driven, Manageable Payments on Loans for Education (SIMPLE) Act plans to reduce student loan defaults “by connecting struggling borrowers with income-driven repayment plans so they can repay based on financial ability.” If passed, the bill would implement an automatic process that sends information and paperwork to the Treasury Department on behalf of those who are at risk of defaulting on their loans and need further repayment options. “This bill will get the government working for young Americans and especially first-generation college graduates to help them avoid bankruptcy, which is good for them and even better for our economy,” said Moulton in a statement. Read more in The Hill.

House Democrats Reintroduce Bill to Boost College Completion. Moulton joined Reps. TJ Cox (D-CA), Angie Craig (D-MN) and Andy Kim (D-NJ) and Donald Norcross (D-NJ) to reintroduce the Remedial Education Improvement Act. The act plans to develop and improve developmental educational programs using five reform models with proven track records. The ultimate goal is to make such programs more effective and less expensive. In addition, the bill plans to establish a competitive grant program and use federal student aid to support up to two years of developmental education. Supporters claim that the programs would provide the prerequisite skills essential for students to complete college courses. “Too many students get into college but find out they have to pay for remedial classes that break the bank. This bill will help Congress study and scale up the most successful remedial education models so students can avoid taking on crushing debt as they build the foundational skills they need to succeed in college,” said Moulton.

DeVos Implementing Obama-Era Regulations for Online College. U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos moved to implement Obama-era “state authorization rules” for online colleges, despite legal attempts to delay them earlier this year. These “state authorization rules” were finalized during the last weeks of President Obama’s administration and were set to take effect on July 1, 2018. The purpose of the regulations is to require online colleges to comply with regulators in every state in which they enrolled students. Online institutions will be required to document that each of those states has a process for resolving student complaints against their college. The rules grew from concerns that some state regulators were not properly policing online colleges. Since the “state authorization rules” were proposed, several states have adopted such reciprocity agreements, however some states such as California have been “a hold out on the agreements amid concerns by consumer advocates that they did not provide sufficient protections for students,” according to a Politico article. While DeVos has filed an appeal to the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals and is in the process of rewriting the rules, the court’s ruling forced her into implementing these regulations. DeVos’s department claims that there are potentially thousands of California online college students who could lose Pell Grants and federal student loans as a result. “This is just one of many consequences of the previous administration’s state authorization rule that we were trying to help students avoid,” said Education Department spokesperson Liz Hill. Read more in Inside Higher Ed.

Harris Introduces Act to Help College Students Afford Basic Needs. Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA) introduced the Basic Assistance for Students in College (BASIC) Act alongside Elizabeth Warren and Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA). The legislation would ensure that college students are able to afford day-to-day necessities, including food and housing. “We cannot accept a status quo in which young people seeking a higher education are unable to afford life’s necessities. I’m proud to introduce the BASIC Act to make sure every college student can focus on learning above all else,” said Harris in a statement. The bill seeks $60 billion of new federal investments in schools that largely serve minority populations.

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 July 29, 2019. For more information, please visit: www.newenglandcouncil.com.

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