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  • Washington Highlights

    House Education and Labor Committee Advances Higher Education Act Reauthorization

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

    The House Education and Labor Committee Oct. 31 advanced the College Affordability Act (CAA, H.R. 4647) [see Washington Highlights, Oct. 18], which reauthorizes the Higher Education Act (HEA, P.L. 89-329), by a party-line vote of 28-22. The mark-up spanned three days and featured over 55 introduced amendments. 

    The committee adopted 19 amendments to the original legislation. Among the adopted amendments was an Amendment in Nature of a Substitute (AINS) introduced by Rep. Susan Davis (D-Calif.), which passed by voice vote. The AINS includes a provision that makes graduate students eligible to receive Federal Direct Subsidized Loans. Graduate student eligibility for Federal Direct Subsidized Loans ended with the signing of the Budget Control Act of 2011 (P.L. 112-25) [see Washington Highlights, June 28].

    Ranking Member Virginia Foxx (R-N.C.) introduced the High-Quality Opportunities in Postsecondary Education (HOPE) Act as the Republican substitute amendment. Similar to the PROSPER Act that was introduced in the 115th Congress [see Washington Highlights, Dec. 7, 2017], the HOPE Act would phase out Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) and eliminate the GradPLUS program that allows medical students to borrow up to the full cost of attendance at a higher interest rate. The HOPE Act failed to pass the committee by a party-line vote of 21-27

    Nearly 40 amendments were not adopted by the committee, including an amendment offered by Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-N.Y.) that would sunset PSLF by creating a new program that would provide loan forgiveness grants to states, and an amendment introduced by Rep. Rick Allen (R-Ga.) that would prevent institutions from offering in-state tuition to students who did not enter the country legally. 

    Upon the committee’s passage of the bill, Chairman Bobby Scott (D-Va.) in a press release noted, “The CAA is a comprehensive bill that will immediately lower the cost of college while putting a down payment on investments that we need to make in the future. I applaud my colleagues for their work on behalf of students and families, and I look forward to bringing this legislation to the House Floor.”

     In contrast, Ranking Member Foxx criticized the CAA in a press release, citing a member of the higher education community in saying, “The so-called College Affordability Act will ‘increase the cost of doing business for most institutions.’” She continued, “Republicans know — and Democrats should know — that this cost won’t be borne by schools, but like any other business will instead get passed to consumers in the form of higher tuition and fees.”

      While the House prepares to bring the CAA to a vote on the floor, Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee Chair Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) continues to advocate for the passage of the Student Aid Improvement Act (S. 2557). The Student Aid Improvement Act includes small bipartisan changes to HEA but is not a comprehensive HEA reauthorization [see Washington Highlights, Oct. 4].