DC Shuttle …
U.S. Senators Collins, Hassan Introduce Bill to Expand Access to Higher Education for Rural Communities. Senators Susan Collins (R-ME) and Maggie Hassan (D-NH) introduced a bipartisan bill, The Success for Rural Students and Communities Act (S.3115), aimed to help rural students enroll in and graduate from higher education, and find jobs after completing higher education. The bill lays out several goals to foster success in rural students, who tend to graduate from high school at higher or similar rates as their urban or suburban counterparts, yet attend college at the lowest rates. It cites a need for “investment in new strategies” to improve college access for rural students. Specifically, it calls for programs that expose rural families to college campuses, courses and internships; help rural students navigate first-generation challenges, such as financial aid applications; and identify what credentials these students need post-graduation. The bill relies on partnerships formed between rural community stakeholders to help students matriculate, graduate and enter the workforce. These stakeholders include local school districts, institutions of higher education, regional economic development entities and rural community-serving organizations. “Investing in the educational aspirations of rural students not only helps them to achieve their personal and career goals, but also contributes to the success of our communities,” said Collins. “Our bipartisan bill encourages schools and employers to forge partnerships that will put students on pathways to the high-need jobs available where they live.” Read more in Education Week.
U.S. House to Vote on Student Loan Forgiveness Rule Changes. The House of Representatives plans to vote on the Department of Education’s new measure that would make federal student loan cancellation following alleged institutional misconduct more difficult for borrowers to receive. The measure is set to be taken up in light of the department’s proposed overturning of the 2016 “borrower defense” rule. The new policy, finalized last year, would set forth stricter rules regarding when loan debt will be forgiven after students claim they were scammed or deceived by schools. The proposed change would reduce loan forgiveness by hundreds of millions of dollars each year, saving $11 billion for taxpayers over the next decade. While Democrats, led by Rep. Susie Lee (D-NV) seem to oppose the changes, it is unclear whether any Republicans plan to support the Democrats in opposing the proposed changes. Read more in Politico.
Education Department Could Face More Financial Penalties for Violating Court Order. U.S. Magistrate Judge Sallie Kim of the U.S. District Court in San Francisco said she would consider imposing more fines on the U.S. Department of Education, beyond the initial $100,000 penalty imposed in October 2019, following a push from former Corinthian Colleges students. Kim originally ordered an injunction on the Department of Education to stop collecting student loan debt payments from students allegedly misled by the for-profit college in May 2018. The students now call for a “significant increase” to the sanctions, after the department admitted to collecting on loans of nearly triple the number of borrowers that it had initially reported. Additionally, the students’ attorneys submitted documents showing the stress Corinthian borrowers faced following the unlawful collection on the loans. Kim granted the motion for partial reconsideration of the fine, citing “new material facts” about the department’s “flagrant and continuing violation” of the court’s order to stop collecting on the loans. Read more in Politico and The Washington Post.
Federal Judge Allows Lawsuit Against Dream Center to Proceed. A U.S. District Court Judge in Chicago denied the Dream Center Foundation its motion to dismiss complaints lodged against it for allegedly concealing its loss of accreditation from students. When the Dream Center, a faith-based nonprofit operating out of Los Angeles, acquired the Art Institutes (a set of for-profit design colleges) in 2017, the Higher Learning Commission, the body responsible for accrediting the institutions, downgraded the accreditationsof the insititutes, making them ineligible for federal aid starting in January 2018. The students allege that the schools continued to present themselves as accredited during this time. Evidence obtained by the House shows that the Department of Education was aware of the situation and continued to fund the institutions; students are now suing, asking for the loans issued for their attending the Art Institutes to be voided. In response, the department has agreed to cancel federal loans and restore Pell Grant eligibility for students who attended certain Art Institute campuses, as well as extend the period for which students at other Dream Center schools can qualify for closed-school discharges. Lawyers representing the students note the importance of the motion being denied, saying that the subsequent discovery process will reveal “more about how the Foundation prioritized its for-profit school business over the best interests of students.” Read more in Education Dive.
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 Jan. 13, 2020. For more information, please visit: www.newenglandcouncil.com.