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  • Washington Highlights

    White House Releases Proposal for Higher Education Act Reauthorization

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

    The White House March 18 released Proposals for Reauthorizing the Higher Education Act (HEA). The administration stated the goal for HEA is to “increase access to affordable, flexible, and innovative postsecondary education and skills attainment to meet the interests and lifelong learning needs of every American.”

    The proposal requests that Congress institute loan limits for GradPLUS loans, which currently allow medical students to borrow up to the full cost of attendance. The administration believes “the current system provides institutions of higher education with few incentives to control costs and saddles parents and graduate students with debt with little attention to borrowers’ likely ability to repay.” As in the president’s fiscal year (FY) 2020 budget request, the proposal would eliminate Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF), citing the “biases and complications of the ‘PSLF’ program.”

    Designed to simplify federal student aid, the proposal echoes the loan repayment plan that is outlined in the president’s FY 2020 budget request. The administration proposes a single income-driven repayment plan that would eliminate the Standard Repayment Cap, which would push most physicians out of the repayment plan [see Washington Highlights, March 15]. The proposal also includes implementing gainful employment reporting that would provide students with “program-level earnings and outcome data they need to make better informed choices about potential careers and educational opportunities.”

    In response to the president’s proposal, Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee Ranking Member Patty Murray (D-Wash.) noted that capping GradPLUS loans would “end up hurting students by reducing the amount of federal aid for students and taking billions out of the pockets of borrowers” and emphasized the importance of creating comprehensive bipartisan HEA legislation. HELP Committee Chair Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) shared the administration’s goal of making higher education more affordable, however he reaffirmed his commitment to work with Ranking Member Murray “to develop bipartisan recommendations so that we can report legislation to the full Senate before summer.”