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.
August & September 2020
- The Parent PLUS Loan Fairness and Responsibility Act introduced by Rep. Foster [D-IL] would allow parents who had borrower a Parent PLUS loan on behalf of their student child to transfer the balance of the loan to the student borrower. The transfer requires that the loan be in good standing and that the loan was used to pay for the student's educational expenses. The student borrower must also be at least 18 years of age, be able to demonstrate the ability to repay the loan, and have in writing the request of the transfer signed by the child, the parent, and the lender. To determine the ability of a child to repay ED would consider the child's employment status, income level, and credit history, the total dollar amount of the loans to be transferred, and the child's debt-to-income ratio before and after the transfer. The amount of the transferred loan would not count towards the borrower's aggregate loan limit.
- The Frontline Healthcare Worker Student Loan Assistance Act of 2020 introduced by Rep. Van Drew [R-NJ] would allow for loan forgiveness for borrowers who are frontline health care workers during the COVID-19 pandemic. The amount to be forgiven would be equal to the sum of the monthly loan payments that are due, suspended, or paid on each eligible Federal student loan and each eligible private student loan of the borrower during the covered period. Eligible borrowers would need to complete an application that states their eligibility, the amount eligible for forgiveness, and what type of loan they have (federal, private, or both).
- The Delivering Immediate Relief to America's Families, Schools and Small Businesses Act introduced by Sen. McConnel [R-KY] focuses largely on funding the United States Postal Service (USPS), continuing — though reduced — unemployment benefits, and providing liability protections for businesses, schools, and other institutions. Additionally the bill would provide an Education Stabilization Fund with $105 billion for programs housed under the Department of Education (ED), with just over $29 billion directed to the Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund (HEERF), which would provide grants directly to institutions of higher education, based largely on the enrollment of full-time equivalent Pell Grant recipients. While the bill allows institutions to use the funds to defray costs they incurred due to the coronavirus and to provide emergency financial aid grants to students, including those exclusively enrolled in distance education, the bill does not specify an amount that must be distributed directly to students. The bill does not address student eligibility for emergency grants except for students enrolled exclusively in distance education.
- The Emergency Grant Aid for College Students Act introduced by Sen. Smith [D-MN] would create a grant program to provide emergency grants to college students to help them get through unanticipated emergencies. The grant funds would be given by the Department of Education to institutions of higher education and the institution would be responsible for distributing the emergency financial-aid grants to students. The grant would not count like other forms of financial assistance for the purposes of calculating a student's amount of need and would not be considered in determining the amount of financial aid for recipients for succeeding academic years.
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