July 27, 2020 — Senate Republicans, led by Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), introduced their proposal for the next coronavirus federal relief package — the Health, Economic Assistance, Liability Protection, and Schools (HEALS) Act — which would, among other things, direct nearly $30 billion to institutions of higher education.
NASFAA President Justin Draeger issued the following statement:
"NASFAA applauds the HEALS Act for providing additional, much-needed dollars for institutions of higher education and the students they serve in a direct, efficient manner. By directing funds to institutions and expanding how the funds may be used, this bill would provide the flexibility schools need to safely reopen, invest in campus-wide technology, shore up operational shortfalls, and, most importantly, meet the needs of students by providing emergency grants that can be used to cover unexpected expenses or any cost of attendance components. While we appreciate this much-needed flexibility, we are concerned that the bill does not provide nearly enough money to make up for higher education shortfalls and reopening costs, nor, unlike the House-passed HEROES Act, does it sufficiently address issues that have previously created implementation challenges for schools and withheld funds from qualified students.
NASFAA supports the inclusion of an important provision in the bill that allows financial aid administrators to exercise professional judgment to seamlessly make income adjustments for independent students receiving unemployment benefits amid the pandemic. This flexibility will ensure that students who are experiencing COVID-19 related financial hardships don’t have to jump through additional bureaucratic hoops to qualify for additional financial assistance.
Unfortunately, the HEALS Act does not extend emergency support to federal student loan borrowers that Congress created in March of 2020. Without those extensions, it is estimated that upward of 40 million borrowers would need to resume payments or seek additional payment or interest relief by the end of September. NASFAA has long supported student loan repayment simplification, as championed by Sen. Lamar Alexander, as a part of Higher Education Act reauthorization. Yet we remain concerned about operationalizing a major system-wide change in the student loan repayment process in the midst of a national crisis. Congress must instead continue to focus on what’s working and what provides the most widespread, immediate relief to borrowers — the temporary suspension of loan repayment."
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The National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators (NASFAA) is a nonprofit membership organization that represents more than 28,000 financial aid professionals at nearly 3,000 colleges, universities, and career schools across the country. NASFAA member institutions serve nine out of every ten undergraduates in the United States. Based in Washington, D.C., NASFAA is the only national association with a primary focus on student aid legislation, regulatory analysis, and training for financial aid administrators. For more information, visit www.nasfaa.org.
Publication Date: 7/27/2020