U.S. Eyeing Aid Changes

DC Shuttle …

Ed Department Finalizes Rules on Income-Based Repayment and Student Aid Delivery. The U.S. Education Department finalized two rules expanding an income-based student loan repayment program and giving students more options for receiving aid. The rule will expand the REPAYE program to allow five million more Direct Loan borrowers to cap their monthly student loan payment amount at 10% of their annual income allocated per month. The plan is currently open to borrowers who took loans before 2007 or have not taken loans since 2011, but in December will be expanded. The regulation also includes provisions that take effect in 2016, including expanding the circumstances under which institutions may challenge or appeal their loan default rate and adding procedures to the Federal Family Education Loan program to identify service members who may be eligible for lower interest rates. The other finalized rule, which was proposed in May, requires institutions to give students choices about how to receive their student aid, according to Inside Higher Ed.

Pilot Program Will Allow High Schoolers to Use Pell. The Education Department announced an experimental program for high school students who are taking college courses to be able to access Pell Grants. High school students will have the opportunity to access federal Pell Grants to take college courses through dual enrollment. Under the pilot, the department will spend up to $20 million on aid for dual-enrolled students in the 2016-17 academic year, according to the Chronicle of Higher Education and the federal notice.

Senators Call for Reviving Perkins Loan Program. Fifty-four senators, including 11 Republicans, have written Senate leaders to ask the chamber to take up the House-passed extension of the Perkins Loan program, which expired Oct. 1. Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee Chair Lamar Alexander (R-TN) has opposed the extension because he wants Perkins to be considered in the context of the Higher Education Act (HEA). Lawmakers, however, are skeptical that HEA will be considered or passed in the near future and are expressing more concern over the Perkins Loan program.

CFPB Investigating For-Profit and Accrediting Agency. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) has reaffirmed its demands for information from an accrediting agency despite opposition from lawmakers. In August, the CFPB delivered a civil investigative demand to the Accrediting Council for Independent Colleges and Schools, which accredits many for-profit colleges. The chairs of the Senate and House education committees claimed that the CFPB was overreaching and Alexander and Rep. John Kline (R-MN) sent a letter to CFPB Director Richard Cordray asking him to rescind the bureau’s demand. Cordray defended the action this week, saying that accrediting agencies could fall under the jurisdiction of the agency. The CFPB also filed suit against a student financial aid company that it accused of running a nationwide scam. The CFPB sued Global Financial Support, which operates Student Financial Resource Center and College Financial Advisory, for engaging in predatory practices, according to Inside Higher Ed. The CFPB alleges that the company made millions of dollars by charging students and parents sham fees for nonexistent financial-aid services and falsely claimed it was affiliated with the federal government.

Legislation Introduced to Promote Community College Partnerships. Rep. Tammy Duckworth (D-IL) and Sen. Al Franken (D-MN) introduced the Community College to Career Fund Act, which supports innovative partnerships between two-year community and technical colleges and businesses to train students to fill high-demand jobs. The bill would create a competitive grant program to fund partnerships between businesses and two-year colleges to address the skills gap. It was also introduced last Congress.

Employer-GED Partnership Announced. The GED Testing Service announced it is partnering with Walmart, KFC, Taco Bell and others to create a program at no cost to employees who want to earn their GED. The program, called GEDWorks, includes access to an adviser, online study materials, practice tests, and connections to local adult education programs. Inside Higher Ed 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 Nov. 2, 2015. 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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