DC Shuttle …
Year-Round Pell Included in Spending Bill. Lawmakers reported that they had struck a deal to fund the government through the rest of fiscal year 2017 and it is expected that Congress will vote on that bill this week to avoid a government shutdown on Friday. The deal reached Sunday includes year-round Pell Grants, lawmakers have confirmed. Through year-round Pell Grants, students can receive a second grant in a single year, allowing them to take more classes per year and potentially finish their degree more quickly. Year-round Pell Grants had previously been available, but the option was eliminated in 2011 over concerns about the program’s cost. The program currently runs an $8.5 billion surplus and supporters fear that those funds are in danger of potential cuts. Also upcoming for the program in fiscal year 2018, the maximum award for the grant will no longer be automatically adjusted for inflation. The spending bill to be considered this week also includes a $2 billion increase in the budget of the National Institutes of Health.
Support for Dual-Enrollment Pell Grants. A bipartisan group of senators called on U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos to keep a pilot program that makes Pell Grants available to high school students taking college courses. Last year, the Obama administration partnered with more than 40 colleges and universities to participate in the pilot program, which serves an estimated 10,000 students at a cost of roughly $20 million. Senators Rob Portman (R-OH) and Mark Warner (D-VA) led 14 senators who asked DeVos in a letter to “continue this experiment and determine an appropriate mechanism for evaluating this important project.” Those two introduced a bill earlier this month that would make the program permanent.
President Orders Ed Dept to do Regulation Review. President Donald Trump signed an executive order, directing DeVos to review, modify and repeal federal regulations that exceed the department’s authority. The order requires that the Education Department set up a task force to review K-12 regulations during the next 300 days and produce a public report. The task force will be led by Bob Eitel, a senior counselor to DeVos. The executive order is intended to act as a clear mandate for DeVos to reduce the federal government’s role in education, said Rob Goad, a senior White House education adviser.
Uncertainty Around Student Loan Forgiveness. A group of Senate Democrats is pressing the Education Department to clarify its position on student loan forgiveness for public workers. The department suggested in a lawsuit that it might not forgive the debt of students that previously thought they were eligible. Senators Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) and Claire McCaskill (D-MO) led 36 lawmakers in writing a letter to DeVos calling for quick clarification.
Ed Dept May Target Sexual Assault Regulation. DeVos suggested she will review controversial guidance on campus sexual assault that the Obama administration issued in 2011. The guidance clarified that colleges are required by Title IX to protect against sexual violence and create safe campuses. DeVos wouldn’t commit to keeping the guidance in place during her confirmation hearing. The guidance has drawn criticism from groups who argue it’s unfair to the accused. The guidance urges colleges to adopt a lower standard of proof in administrative hearings than is used in criminal trials. Former Vice President Joe Biden spoke to college students about campus sexual assault this week The Washington Post reports.
Secretary Visits Hill with School Choice Focus. DeVos had a full day of meetings with members of Congress. The secretary met with the House Republican Policy Committee to hold a “discussion on education priorities and building momentum for school choice policies.” She also held a conversation with U.S. Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA), part of the Republican leadership team, and a meeting with Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-LA) and his wife, Laura Layden Cassidy, who founded a charter school for dyslexic students.
Healey Leads Attorneys General in Letter on Student Loan Servicing. Attorneys general of 20 states and the District of Columbia wrote a letter to Education Secretary DeVos questioning her decision earlier this month to revoke guidance on the quality of federal student loan servicing. The letter was led by Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey and Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan, the Washington Post reports.
Bill Would Protect Social Security from Feds. Senators Ron Wyden (D-OR) and Sherrod Brown (D-OH) reintroduced a bill that would prevent Social Security benefits from being garnished to pay for outstanding federal debts like student loans. The group includes Senators Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and Bernie Sanders (I-VT) Marketwatch reports.
Burlington College Investigation. The VTDigger reports that the FBI and U.S. Justice Department were investigating the activities of Burlington College as recently as February.
School Choice Debate in New Hampshire. New Hampshire lawmakers rejected a proposal to create scholarship program for school choice, the Associated Press reports.
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 May 1, 2017. For more information, please visit: www.newenglandcouncil.com.