Senate HELP Chair Aims to Reauthorize Higher Ed Act, Simplify FAFSA This Year

By The New England Council

DC Shuttle …

Alexander Outlines HEA Plans. U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander gave a speech at the American Enterprise Institute to discuss his outlook for the Higher Education Act (HEA). Alexander previewed his intentions for the work of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee, which he chairs, and said he intends to work on reauthorization of the HEA. He laid out goals for FAFSA reform, student loan reform and accountability, as well as some student aid changes that he said were bipartisan solutions by themselves. The Chronicle of Higher Education reports on his remarks. Alexander also authored an op-ed in the New York Times on student debt.

FAFSA Bill Introduced in Senate. U.S. Senators Ben Cardin (D-MD) and Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), and Maryland members of the House, announced the introduction of the FAFSA Fairness Act. The proposed legislation would ease the process to apply for and receive federal financial aid for students who do not have contact with their parents or parental guardians. Diverse Issues in Higher Education reports.

Education Tax Bills Introduced in House. U.S. Rep. David Cicilline (D-RI) introduced a pair of bills to make a college degree more accessible. The Student Loan Interest Tax Deduction Expansion Act would provide tax relief for families with student loan debt by increasing the maximum tax deduction on student loan interest. The Student and Families Tax Reduction Act would provide further tax relief by making permanent an above-the-line tax credit for higher education tuition and fees.

Senators Write Ed Secretary DeVos About Loan Fraud. U.S. Senators Maggie Hassan (D-NH), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and others, wrote a letter to U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos calling on the Department of Education to reestablish the ability for individuals to anonymously report complaints through the Federal Student Aid’s (FSA) Feedback System that students, borrowers and the public to report allegations of fraud and abuse in federal financial aid programs. “We are deeply concerned that the Department’s changes to the Feedback System make it more difficult to report wrongdoing and make it easier for bad actors to cover up fraud and abuse,” the senators write.

Massachusetts Starts Student Housing Program. Massachusetts is running a pilot program to provide housing to homeless college students, the Boston Globe reports. The state initially plans to spend $120,000 to pilot the student housing program at Bridgewater State, Framingham State and Worcester State universities and at the University of Massachusetts Lowell, with more funding expected in the next budget. The Boston Globe also reports that there are many student loan bills being introduced in the state capital.

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. 11, 2019. For more information, please visit: www.newenglandcouncil.com.

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