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.

October 2019

Campus-Based Programs

  • H.R.4706/S.2608 - The bicameral legislation, the Advancing Competency-Based Education Act of 2019, introduced by Rep. Neguse [D-CO] and Sen. Hassan [D-NH]  would create a competency-based education (CBE) demonstration project that would allow institutions, selected by the Department of Education (ED), to request a waiver of, or flexibility on, certain statutory and regulatory requirements in order for them to award Title IV aid under a CBE model. ED would be required to conduct outreach to institutions eligible to take part in the program. The bill would also create a CBE council which would be charged with conducting a study on ongoing innovation and development of CBE programs, as well as make recommendations to Congress that would update standard definitions and/or address the metrics of a CBE program.

Consumer Information and Transparency

  • H.R.4648 - The Transparency in Off-Campus Housing Act, introduced by Rep. Horsford [D-NV] would allow ED to regulate how school calculate room and board for students living with parents or living off-campus. Regulations of the bill would require a waiver to allow institutions to diverge from the regulated methodology but those institutions would still need to provide their methodology for their calculation, and be able to demonstrate that they are using reliable information.
  • H.R.4637 - The Opportunity to Address College Hunger Act, introduced by Rep. Bonamici [D-OR], aims to address student hunger on college campuses by enabling eligible students with the information and resources needed to apply for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) as well as encourage the federal government, states and institutions to be more proactive in their effort to address student hunger. The bill would also create a college student hunger demonstration pilot program that will test models that allow students to use SNAP to purchase food from university dining halls.
  • H.R.4587 - The Truth in Tuition Act of 2019, introduced by Rep. Cartwright [D-PA], would mandate that institutions provide to each admitted students regardless of level a multi-year tuition and fee schedule or a single-year tuition and fee schedule with a nonbinding multi-year estimate of net costs after all financial aid is awarded.

FAFSA Simplification

  • S.2667 - The FAFSA Simplification Act of 2019, introduced by Sen. Alexander [R-TN], would create a streamlined financial aid application process, while still giving schools, states, and scholarship providers enough information to offer financial aid to today’s diverse college-going population. Under this proposal, all students would be able to determine their Pell Grant eligibility through Adjusted Gross Income (AGI) and household size.
  • H.R.4680 - The Equitable Student Aid Access Act. introduced by Rep. Doggett [D-TX], would add receipt of a federal means-tested benefits program (such as SSI, SNAP, and Medicaid) as a sole qualifier for an auto-zero expected family contribution (EFC) determination. This change would allow students and families who have already demonstrated high need to automatically qualify for maximum federal student aid, thereby reducing the FAFSA to personal identity and non-income eligibility questions. In addition, the bill codifies the Early FAFSA and use of prior-prior year (PPY) tax information put into place by former President Barack Obama via executive action in fall 2015, ensuring that students will continue to be able to submit their federal financial aid application for the coming school year in October rather than in January using data financial data filed with the IRS two years prior.
  • H.R.4584 - The Financial Aid Fairness for Students Act, introduced by Rep. Bass [D-CA], would repeal Section 484(r) of the Higher Education Act, no longer suspending federal financial aid for students who have been convicted of a drug offense. The bill would also remove the question pertaining to drug offenses from the FAFSA. 

Improving Affordability

  • H.R.4747 - The Making College More Affordable Act, introduced by Rep. Cicilline [D-RI], would create a new loan type, a Federal Interest Free Education Loan, eliminating all other direct loan programs. The loan would carry a 3.76% interest rate for the lifetime of the loan with an aggregate borrowing limit of $90,000.
  • H.R.4674 - The College Affordability Act, introduced by Rep. Scott [D-VA] is a comprehensive HEA reauthorization bill that would expand student eligibility for the Pell grant, expending the Pell LEU from 12 to 14 semesters. It would also remove the requirement that eligible male students register with Selective Service before applying for financial aid. The bill creates a FAFSA simplification plan, that sends students down 3-pathways on the FAFSA depending on their income and family circumstances. It also adds some standardization to financial aid offers. Repayment plans would be limited to only two options under the CAA, an income-based plan, or a fixed plan. Origination fees would be eliminated with the bill, and borrowers would now be eligible for a one-time student loan refinancing. 
  • H.R.4638 - The Degrees Not Debt Act of 2019, introduced by Rep. Carbajal [D-CA], 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.

Loans & Repayment

  • H.R.4869 - The Student Loan Default Reduction Program Act, introduced by Rep. Horn [D-OK], would instead of only removing the record of a borrower's default from their credit history, remove any adverse item of information relating to the loan default from the borrowers credit history. 
  • H.R.4749 - The Student Loan Relief Act of 2019, introduced by Rep. Clay [D-MO], would allow loans that were made in the 20 years previous to its enactment to be refinanced to the current interest rate at the time of the issuance is made. 
  • H.R.4670 - The Simplifying Student Loans Act, introduced by Rep. Wild [D-PA], would replace the current repayment plan choices with two options, a income-based repayment plan and a fixed repayment plan. The amount of time that a borrower would have to repay under the fixed repayment plan would be based on the amount of their student loan debt. Borrowers with $20,000 or less would have payments spread out over 10 years, borrowers with debt under $30,000 would have payments spread over 15 years, under $40,000 would equate to 20 years, and any borrower with greater than $40,000 of debt would have their payments fixed over 25 years. 
  • H.R.4658 - The Empowering Student Borrowers Act, introduced by Rep. Murphy [D-FL], would allow borrowers to enroll in an income-based repayment plan through an electronic, written or verbal process. 
  • H.R.4647 - The Teacher Debt Relief Act, introduced by Rep. Hayes [D-CT], would allow teachers to enroll in both teacher debt forgiveness and public service loan forgiveness programs concurrently which allows teachers to receive their eligible forgiveness after 5 years of work, and then receive the rest after an additional 5 years, instead of having to start over after their partial teacher debt forgiveness  and complete the required 10 under PSLF. 
  • H.R.4645 - The Public Service Loan Forgiveness Inclusion Act of 2019, introduced by Rep. Foster [D-IL], would allow previously ineligible repayment plan payments to become eligible as a "qualifying payment" for the purpose of Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) if a borrower transfers to an eligible repayment plan within five years (first 60 payments) of entering full time employment. Currently ineligible repayment plans for PSLF include the graduated and extended plans.
  • H.R.4627 - The Student Borrower Advocate Act, introduced by Rep. Scanlon [D-PA], would mandate the creation of a “borrower advocate” in the office of the PBO whose function would be to provide timely assistance to federal loan borrowers by responding to and reviewing their complaints about federal loans, working to resolve any complaints in the best interest of the borrowers, and reporting complaints to a state or accrediting agency if applicable. The borrower advocate would be responsible for publishing an annual report to ED that would summarize the complaints received from borrowers, including the number of complaints made.  
  • H.R.4607 - This bill, introduced by Rep. Harder [D-CA], would allow borrowers who have full-time jobs as health care practitioners and provide their services at a nonprofit, or public hospital or other nonprofit or public health care facility to be eligible for Public Service Loan Forgiveness. 
  • H.R.4596 - The Student Loan Advocacy Act, introduced by Rep. Omar [D-MN], would update the purpose of the PBO to include prioritization to students and borrowers in decision-making processes, making federal aid programs more easily understandable to students and parents, managing costs, increasing efficiency, increasing accountability of officials who administer operational aspects of federal programs, and increasing oversight of schools. To ensure these improvements take place, the secretary of education would be responsible for implementing accountability and oversight measures to make sure the newly-defined purpose is accomplished. This bill would also mandate the creation of a “borrower advocate” in the office of the PBO whose function would be to provide timely assistance to federal loan borrowers by responding to and reviewing their complaints about federal loans, working to resolve any complaints in the best interest of the borrowers, and reporting complaints to a state or accrediting agency if applicable. The borrower advocate would be responsible for publishing an annual report to ED that would summarize the complaints received from borrowers, including the number of complaints made.
  • H.R.4590 - The End Capitalization for Struggling Borrowers Act, introduced by Rep. Davis [D-IL], would eliminate student loan interest capitalization after forbearance and during certain periods of deferment.

Military and Veterans Aid

  • H.R.4609 - The Veteran Service Equity Act, introduced by Rep. Levin [D-CA], would allow borrowers who have full-time jobs with a veteran or military service organization that does not engage in partisan political campaign activity to be eligible for public service loan forgiveness.

Pell Grants

  • H.R.4639 - The Pell Grant Sustainability Act, introduced by Rep. Casten [D-IL], would index the Pell Grant to inflation. 
  • H.R.4608 - The Pell Plus Act of 2019, introduced by Rep. Kilmer [D-WA], would allow institutions to provide a Pell Grant bonus to low-income students in their third and fourth years to aid in on-time completion. Eligible students who are on track to graduate in four years would be given access to the same total Pell Grant amounts that are currently made available only to those who take six years to complete. The additional funds would be matched by participating institutions.

Quality & Accountability

  • H.R.4950 - The CTE Outcome Data Enactment Act of 2019, introduced by Rep. Budd [R-NC], would require the Department of Education to conduct a study on Federal data collection related to student participation and performance in career and technical programs. The study would look at the effectiveness of the Federal collection of data to identify any gaps or areas of duplication of effort, or methods to improve reporting efforts. 
  • H.R.4724/S.2640 - The bicameral Students Not Profits Act of 2019, introduced by Rep. Jayapal [D-WA], would remove for-profit institutions from the definition of an institution of higher education and references to for-profit institutions from the HEA, making them ineligible to receive Federal student aid. 
  • H.R.4662 - The Accountability in Student Loan Data Act, introduced by Rep. Porter [D-CA], would change the way the Department of Education calculates institutional cohort default rates. It would also install penalties for institutions with a high percentage of graduates who are unable to pay their loans. 
  • H.R.4615 - The Stop College Closures Act of 2019, introduced by Rep. Shalala [D-FL], would require higher education institution accreditation agencies to do more to prevent institutions from closing abruptly. It would require an institution to submit and receive approval for a teach-out plan if ED becomes aware of any negative factors pointing to the institution’s financial wellness.

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: 11/13/2019

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