Two bipartisan groups of senators Jan. 7 introduced legislation to reform federal student aid that could seriously impact medical education financing.
Senate Health Education Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee Chair Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) and Sen. Michael Bennet (D-Colo.) reintroduced the Financial Aid Simplification and Transparency (FAST) Act (S. 108). Meanwhile, Sens. Angus King (I-Maine) and Richard Burr (R-N.C.) reintroduced the Repay Act (S.85).
Sens. Burr, King, Cory Booker (D-N.J.), and Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.) also co-sponsored the FAST Act. As of press time, the text was not yet available, but the bill is expected to be almost identical to its predecessor in the 113th Congress. Most attention has focused on the provisions to simplify the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), but the FAST Act would also:
- Establish a single graduate and professional federal loan by eliminating GradPLUS and subsidized Stafford loans;
- Establish a $30,000 annual loan limit and a $150,000 aggregate loan limit for graduate and professional students. Those limits can be increased on an annual, case-by-case basis so long as it doesn't result in an aggregate larger than $225,000 (median indebtedness of 2014 medical school graduates was $180,000); and
- Consolidate repayment options into a single income driven plan and a 10-year plan.
Similarly, the Repay Act purports to “simplify the complex maze of federal student loan repayment programs” with a fixed 10-year and an income-driven repayment option. Senators Alexander, Mark Warner (D-Va.), Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), and Susan Collins (R-Maine) also co-sponsored the Repay Act.
Sen. Alexander stated that he would like to combine the bills as a foundation for reauthorization of the Higher Education Act this year.