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  • Washington Highlights

    House and Senate Education Committees Hold Hearings on the Higher Education Act

    Matthew Shick, Sr. Director, Gov't Relations & Regulatory Affairs
    Brett Roude, Legislative Analyst

    The House Education and Labor Committee March 13 held a hearing titled, “The Cost of College: Student Centered Reforms to Bring Higher Education Within Reach.” The hearing was the first of five bipartisan hearings regarding the Higher Education Act (HEA) reauthorization announced by Committee Chair Bobby Scott (D-Va.) and Ranking Member Virginia Foxx (R-N.C.). 

    In his opening statement, Chairman Scott discussed the importance of passing comprehensive higher education reform that will address “many factors that prevent students—particularly students of color and low-income families—from attending institutions of higher education.” Ranking Member Foxx highlighted the need to have simpler loan, repayment, forgiveness, deferment, and forbearance programs, noting the current system is a “classic example of the unintended consequences of good intentions.”

    James Kvaal, president, The Institute of College Access and Success, spoke about the importance of GradPLUS loans and Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) in response to a question by Rep. Marcia Fudge (D-Ohio). Mr. Kvaal noted GradPLUS loans provide expanded access to federal loans for graduate and professional students, especially those from low-income families and communities of colors. He also highlighted how PSLF “serves as a recruiting tool to go into public service and increases the diversity of the workforce in those areas.” Rep. Jahana Hayes (D-Conn.) also emphasized how graduate school debt is not a choice for students going into certain professions.

    The Education and Labor Committee March 14 held a members day hearing, in which Members of Congress testified for the committee regarding their education and workforce policy priorities. Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Calif.) discussed the importance of PSLF, noting loan forgiveness programs are important for borrowers from the low-income family trying paying back their loans.

    The Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee March 12 held a hearing titled, “Reauthorizing the Higher Education Act: Simplifying the FAFSA and Reducing the Burden of Verification.”

    In his opening statement, Chair Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) highlighted his proposal for loan repayment — an income based proposal “which would never require the borrower to make payments of more than ten percent of his or her discretionary income” and a “10-year payment plan, with equal monthly payments.” Ranking Member Patty Murray (D-Wash.) highlighted her HEA priorities, including “making college more affordable and addressing the exploding student debt crisis, holding colleges accountable for student’s success, and increasing access and opportunities for historically underrepresented students.”