The Capitol Recap

Capitol RecapWith 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.

September 2019

Campus-Based Programs

  • H.R.4308 - The Campus Act, introduced by Rep. Morelle [D-NY], would create a matching Emergency Financial Aid Grant program, with the Federal share being a maximum of 50% of the program. The grant would be available to students facing financial challenges during their course of study due to situations such as, loss of employment, child care, or housing, food insecurity, death of a parent of guardian, or a medical conditions.

Consumer Information and Transparency

  • H.R.4430 - The Clean Data in Higher Education Act, introduced by Rep. Trahan [D-MA], would aim to improve data in the higher education system by eliminating data mismatches, and cleaning up good data. Under this bill, each institution of higher education would be assigned a unique numeric identifier to be used to report and disaggregate data.
  • H.R.4241 - The Student Loan Contract Act of 2019, introduced by Rep. Underwood [D-IL], would mandate changing renaming the current master promissory note to a "student loan contract".

FAFSA Simplification

  • S.2557 - The Student Aid Improvement Act, introduced by Sen. Alexander [R-TN] includes auto-qualifying applicants up-front for maximum Pell Grants if they meet specific criteria like qualifying for certain means-tested benefits or make too little money to need to file tax returns. It also would not require applicants to list assets on the FAFSA if their tax returns did not indicate any significant assets as reported on tax schedules. The bill would also pave the way for more cooperation between federal agencies to auto-qualify applicants. The Student Aid Improvement Act also incorporates language that would require significant standardization of financial aid offers, by mandating the use of standard language and a standard format, as well as multiple other items. The bill would require certain standardized items to be included on the first page of the financial aid offer and in the same order, and sets strict standards for the way financial aid and enrollment information must be displayed on the first page of the aid offer. 
  • H.R.4478 - This comprehensive FAFSA simplification bill, the Simple FAFSA Act of 2019 introduced by Rep. Sablan [D-MP], would codify the use of prior-prior year (PPY) income data on the FAFSA and create a three-pathway model for the FAFSA. The EFC formula would be changed to result in a more generous treatment of students and, in some cases, parent income. The income threshold for automatic zero EFC would increase to $34,000 and would increase with inflation. The definition of untaxed income is narrowed significantly under the bill. The bill repeals the 1998 prohibition on students with certain drug offense convictions, as well as those who fail to register with the Selective Service System, from receiving federal student assistance, a change NASFAA has supported for some time. It also grants Title IV eligibility to undocumented "Dreamer" students, defined for these purposes as those who entered the U.S. prior to reaching age 16 and have either earned or are in the process of earning a high school diploma or associate's degree, have been eligible for a grant of deferred action, or have served in the uniformed services.
  • H.R.4245 - The HOPE (Heightening Opportunities for Pathways to Education) for FAFSA Act, introduced by Rep. McBath [D-GA], would streamline the FAFSA process for applicants, putting them into 1 of 3 pathways depending on the complexity of their finances. Pathway One applicants would be those who have received a federal means-tested benefit at some time during the previous 24-month period before filing their FAFSA, Pathway Two applicants would be those who are not required to file a tax return, or did not need to file any additional Schedules with their 1040 form and who’s adjusted gross income is less than or equal to $60,000. All other applicants would fall under Pathway Three.
  • H.R.4240 - The File Once FAFSA Act, introduced by Rep. Underwood [D-IL], would allow applicants who submit a FAFSA for an undergraduate course of study and who are eligible to receive a Federal Pell Grant for their first year, to not have to resubmit a FAFSA application for the rest of their undergraduate study, and instead, submit a certification form confirming there was no change to their dependency status.

*NEW* Graduate Students

  • H.R.4422 - The Fellowships to Prepare the Next Generation of Teachers Act, introduced by Rep. Norcross [D-NJ], would create a grant program for graduate students who are preparing to become elementary or secondary school science, technology, engineers, math, special education or ESL teachers. Each recipient of the grant would be required to teach for 1 year at an institute of higher education that has a teacher preparation program for each year they received the fellowship grant. If the recipient fails to complete their teaching requirements, any grant amount received will be converted to a Federal Unsubsidized loan.

*NEW* Improving Affordability

  • H.R. 4414 - The Electronic Books Opening Opportunity for Knowledge Act of 2019 introduced by Rep. DelBene [D-WA], would seek to reduce the cost of textbooks for undergraduate college students by encouraging institutions, through a grant program, to make digital course materials available in at least two different academic departments.
  • H.R.4253 - The Empower Parents in College Act introduced by Rep. Johnson [R-SD], would allow institutions to allocate a portion of funds under the Strengthening Institutions Program to establish, improve, or expand partnerships with child care providers.

Loans & Repayment

  • H.R.4502 - The Giving Relief And Dollars to Undergraduates for Adequate Time for Education Act, introduced by Rep. Casten [D-IL], would repeal section 1087e(q) of the Higher Education Act, which would eliminate the requirement that students may only receive Federal student loans within a time frame equal to 150% of the published length of the program they are enrolled in.
  • H.R.4517 - The Promoting Apprenticeships in Public Service Act, introduced by Rep. Cicilline [D-RI], would direct the Secretary of Education to cancel or repay up to $25,000 in loans for any borrower that received a certificate from a registered apprenticeship program and then completes two years of full-time employment at a qualifying public service job.
  • H.R. 4395 - The Clean Slated Through Consolidation Act, introduced by Rep. Stevens [D-MI], would allow borrowers who have defaulted on their student loans to have that default removed from their credit history if they receive a loan consolidation for the amount.
  • H.R. 4396  - The Clean Slated Through Repayment Act, introduced by Rep. Mucarsel-Powell [D-FL], would remove the record of default on a borrower's credit history upon total repayment of the full amount due.
  • S.2523 - The Adjunct Faculty Loan Fairness Act of 2019 introduced by Sen. Durbin [D-IL], would allow adjunct faculty, defined as a part-time faculty member who teaches not less than 1 course at an institution of higher education and is not employed on a full-time basis by any other employer, to qualify for public service loan forgiveness.
  • H.R.4391 - The Public Service Loan Forgiveness Modernization Act, introduced by Rep. Panetta [D-CA],  would mandate the creation of an easily searchable database of all PSLF eligible employers, and the positions under that employer. The Act would also create a process for an employer to electronically submit a certification form that would inform ED that they are a qualified employer. In addition, the Act would require ED to provide each borrower an annual statement that includes the number of monthly payments made by the borrower, the number of payments that qualify for PSLF, and the number of monthly payments the borrower has left before they can apply for forgiveness.
  • H.R.4310 -The Public Service Expansion Act, introduced by Rep. Boyle [D-PA], would allow employment in any position at a nonprofit organization to be counted as a public service job and eligible for public service loan forgiveness.

Pell Grants

  • H.R.4298/S.2498- The Pell Grant Restoration Act, a bicameral piece of legislation introduced by  would Rep. Hayes [D-CT] and Sen. Warren [D-MA], restore Pell Grant eligibility for students who attended an institution of higher education that closed due to certain violations.
  • S.2471 - The Degrees Not Debt Act, introduced by Sen. Heinrich [D-NM], would increase the maximum amount of the Federal Pell Grant, increase the income threshold for auto-zero EFC calculations as well as creates a simplified FAFSA application for low-income families.

Quality & Accountability

  • H.R.4579 - The Quality Higher Education Act, introduced by Rep. Wilson [D-FL], would require ED to initiate a negotiated rulemaking process to create consequences, as well as a process for accrediting agencies if an institution in their jurisdiction fails to meet accreditation standards. ED would also be required to create a list of standards that accrediting agencies will use, including standard metrics for completion and workforce participation and how to measure those metrics.
  • S.2559 - The Student Training and Education Metrics Act of 2019 introduced by Sen. Scott [R-FL], would create institutional risk-sharing for institutions that participate in the Federal Direct loan program. The risk-sharing would be based on loan default by calculating the total cohort loan balance for a fiscal year and from that deducing which percentage of that population have gone into default in the 3 consecutive years since their loans entered repayment. The amount the institution would be responsible for paying for the first year after enactment would be 1% of the cohort non-repayment balance, the second through the ninth year, the institutions would be responsible for 2% and in years 10 and later, 10%.
  • H.R.4497 - The Protecting Student Aid (PSA) Act of 2019 introduced by Rep. Shalala [D-FL], would codify the Student Aid Enforcement Unit that lives within the Department of Education and would mandate that the Unite better respond to fraud and abuse within the federal student aid programs.
  • H.R.4475 - The Higher Education Student Protection Act, introduced by Rep. Malinowski [D-NJ], would hold all institutions of higher education accountable for spending disproportionately on advertising, marketing, recruitment, and lobbying relative to actual instruction. Institutions would be required to report to IPEDS how much they are spending on those items. The system would then flag any institutions who are spending less than 1/3 of their revenue from tuition and fees on instruction. Institutions could be subject to losing access to Title IV funds.
  • H.R.4424 - The Elevation of the Education Profession Act introduced by Rep. Sablan [D-MP], would create an advisory committee at the US Department of Education made up of teacher unions, state and local officials, school administrator organizations, institutions of higher education, and others, to produce a comprehensive set of expectations that sets a high bar for entry into the profession and ensures that all entering teachers and school leaders are profession-ready.
  • H.R.4380 - The Transparency for Transfer Students Act, introduced by Rep. Castro [D-TX], would require institutions of higher education to disclose in an easy to find location on their website an explanation of all articulation agreements they may have with another institution, and a list of transfer-related resources, such as deadlines and financial aid information.
  • H.R.4343 - The FACT Act of 2019 a bipartisan bill introduced by Rep. Trahan [D-MA], would bring some standardization to financial aid offer forms by mandating the use of standard terms and definitions, as well as requiring institutions to include a "quick reference box" allowing students to quickly compare aid offers. The bill would direct the Department of Education (ED) to conduct consumer testing that establishes standardized definitions and groupings of aid type and determines any additional elements that should be included in financial aid offers. The FACT Act includes the addition of a mandatory "quick reference box" that must be included on the first page of financial aid offers, and would be developed through consumer testing by the ED. The box would feature three data elements that would allow students to quickly compare aid offers, including cost of attendance, total grants and scholarships offered, and net price.

Tax Issues

  • H.R.4438 - The Don't Tax Higher Education Act introduced by Rep. Boyle [D-PA], would amend the IRS Code to remove the excise tax on investment income of private colleges and universities.

For additional updates on some of these topics, be sure to select related items in the Suggested Content area; you can also sign up to receive email notifications weekly when content has been updated.

Publication Date: 10/15/2019

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