With reauthorization of the Higher Education Act due for action, members of Congress unveil new proposals for the future of higher education on a continuous basis. NASFAA's series, The Capitol Recap, provides a monthly update on new pieces of legislation introduced in both the House of Representatives and the Senate to provide aid administrators with the most up-to-date information for their offices and their own administration. Bills listed here, unless otherwise noted, have been referred to committee and are awaiting action or consideration.
For a complete list of legislation introduced in this session of Congress, visit the NASFAA Legislative Tracker.
- HR 4048, Higher Education and Employment Transparency Act: This bill, sponsored by Rep. Carson (D-IN), would require the Department of Education (ED) and institutions to provide a link to up-to-date information on Occupational Employment Statistics for prospective and current students.
- HR 4119, Student Loan Disclosure Modernization Act: This bill, covered in Today's News, would require Direct Loan borrowers to acknowledge in writing that they have read a Plain Language Disclosure Form before receiving any new Direct Loan. The bill would require consumer testing of the form, and directs the Department of Education (ED) to consult with the Federal Reserve Board, which has a consumer-tested two-page model disclosure form for private loans. In developing its form, ED would also be required to consult with institutions, borrowers, and other student aid stakeholders. Rep. Messer (R-IN) introduced this bill.
- HR 4125, Comprehensive Student Achievement Information Act: This bill expands disclosure requirements to also include the completion or graduation rates of non-first time and half-time certificate- or degree-seeking undergraduate students. The bill also sets forth new time periods for calculating the completion or graduation rates for programs of study that are less than four years. Rep. Love (R-UT) sponsored this bill, which was also introduced in the Senate by Sen. Hatch (R-UT) in February.
- S. 1927, Adjunct Faculty Loan Fairness Act: This bill allows part-time adjunct faculty members, who are not employed on a full-time basis by any other employer, to qualify for the Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) program. Sen. Durbin (D-IL) introduced this bill.
- HR 4000, Student Loan Relief Act: This bill, led by Rep. Comstock (R-VA), would create a 3-year program to facilitate federal student loan refinancing into the private market, housed in the Department of the Treasury. Refinanced loans under their program would carry a federal government guarantee of 95%. The bill instructs the Departments of Treasury and Education to undertake a national awareness campaign on the temporary refinancing program with a disclose that loans refinanced through this program would not be eligible for income-driven repayment or loan forgiveness. The bill would also exempt employer payments of interest on the refinanced loans from the calculation of gross income for income tax purposes.
- HR 4001, Student Loan Refinancing and Recalculation Act: This bill would allow for refinancing of both Direct Loans and FFELP Loans. The bill would also lower the percentage add-on to the 10-year Treasury bill in the calculation of interest rates to one percent for undergraduate, graduate, and parent borrowers. In addition, the bill would eliminate origination fees. Rep. Garamendi (D-CA) sponsored this bill.
- HR 4074, Pathways Out of Poverty Act: This bill, designed to "strengthen and expand proven anti-poverty programs and initiatives," includes the Pell Grant Preservation and Expansion Act, which would make a number of improvements to the Federal Pell Grant Program, many of which are long-time NASFAA recommendations. Among the funding changes, the bill would re-instate the annual inflation increase to the maximum award and make Pell funding fully “mandatory,” meaning it wouldn't be subject to year-to-year appropriations. In terms of eligibility, the bill would allow incarcerated individuals, undocumented students, students with drug-related offenses, and students enrolled in short-term job training programs to receive Pell Grant. Rep. Lee (D-CA) introduced this bill.
- HR 4078, Expanding America’s Workforce Act: Introduced by Rep. Hunter (R-CA), this bill would expand Pell Grant eligibility to short-term programs of eight to 12 weeks. A student is eligible for a short-term Pell Grant if the student has not obtained a baccalaureate or post-baccalaureate degree within the last 10 years, has not attended an eligible institution within the last five years, and is determined to be unemployed or underemployed by the institution. The maximum short-term Pell Grant award would be 50 percent of the maximum Pell Grant award. The bill also encourages the development of articulation agreements to allow students to earn academic credit for apprenticeship programs and addresses issues surrounding transfer of credit by mandating that identical academic programs of the same level, if approved by the same accreditor, shall be automatically transferable between institutions unless an institution requests an additional assessment to prove competency.
- HR 4162, Pell Grant Modernization Act: This bill would lower the semester limit for Pell Grant eligibility from 12 semesters to 10 semesters. Under the bill, an eligible program would require an academic year of a minimum of 30 weeks of instruction time for credit hour programs and a minimum of 26 weeks for clock hour programs. In addition, the bill would increase the credit or clock hours required in the definition of full-time, 3/4 time, half-time, and less than half-time based on the change to the definition of an academic year. Rep. Grothman (R-WI) sponsored this bill.
- HR 4029, AIM Act: This bill, the Accurate Income Measure (AIM) Act, would require the Secretary to revise the gainful employment regulations to provide for the development and implementation of a percentage increase in the mean or median aggregate earnings of graduates of specific, covered programs to reasonably account for underreporting of earned income by the programs graduates. In addition, the bill would modify the Alternate Earnings appeal process to include a new appeal based upon the most current Bureau of Labor Statistics earnings data for the Standard Occupational Classification (SOC) code, or combination of SOC codes, in which more than 50% of the students in the measured cohort were placed or found employment. The bill's "covered programs" would include all barbering, cosmetology, nail, esthetics, holistic health, and massage therapy programs. Rep. Speier (D-CA) introduced this bill.
- HR 4093, CAMPUS HATE Crimes Act: This bill, the Creating Accountability Measures Protecting University Students Historically Abused, Threatened, and Exposed to (CAMPUS HATE) Crimes Act, would require institutions participating in the federal student aid programs to certify to the Secretary of Education that the institution has adopted and has implemented a program to prevent and adequately respond to hate crimes within the jurisdiction of the institution or by students and employees. Institutions would be required to distribute hate crime information to students annually and to develop hate crime prevention and response programs. In addition, the bill would create a competitive grant program to support hate crime prevention initiatives at institutions. Rep. Brown (D-MD) sponsored this measure.
- S. 2028, Protect Student Borrowers Act: This bill establishes an institutional risk-sharing system where institutions would be required to assume some of the financial risk of student loan default based on the percentage of their graduates and former students who default on their loans. Institutions would be required to submit a risk-sharing payment to the federal government if the school's cohort default rate (CDR) is higher than 15 percent. The payment can be reduced by implementing a "student loan management plan" or by the discretion of the Secretary of Education. The bill would apply only to institutions with a Direct Loan program participation rate higher than 33%. Sen. Reed (D-RI) introduced this bill.
- HR 4181/S. 2037, POST Act: Introduced by Rep. Cohen (D-TN) in the House and Sen. Durbin (D-IL) in the Senate, this comprehensive bill changes the 90/10 Rule back to 85/15 for proprietary institutions and expands the definition of federal funds to include any federal financial assistance provided under this Act or any other Federal law through a grant, contract, subsidy, loan, guarantee, insurance, or other means to a proprietary institution, including federal financial assistance that is disbursed or delivered to an institution or on behalf of a student or to a student to be used to attend the institution.
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