Bloomberg Targets Institutional Cost, Quality in Higher Ed Platform

By Joelle Fredman, NASFAA Staff Reporter

Presidential candidate and former New York Mayor Mike Bloomberg released his official plan to reform higher education on Tuesday, which included doubling the maximum Pell Grant, creating an incentive program for states to reinvest in higher education, and reinstating Obama-era gainful employment regulations.

“At its best, higher education serves as an engine of social mobility and a pathway to the middle class. But our current system is not fulfilling that promise,” the proposal reads. “Americans owe over $1.5 [trillion] in federal student loan debt, and employers say many graduates haven’t been taught the skills needed for workplace success. Mike’s plan ensures cost is not a barrier to a quality post-secondary education. … His plan will make college fairer and more affordable — and it will make college count.”

In an effort to target the growing cost of college, Bloomberg proposed to raise the maximum Pell Grant award to $12,690 — up from the maximum award for 2020-21 of $6,345. Bloomberg also proposed expanding Pell Grant eligibility to incarcerated students and so-called “Dreamers” — young immigrants brought to the country illegally as children — as well as creating a pilot program to provide additional Pell Grant funds to institutions that enroll — and graduate — large numbers of Pell-eligible students.

Bloomberg’s plan takes other steps intended to raise college completion rates, such as experimenting with grants for at-risk students approaching graduation, rewarding more selective schools with higher graduation rates for enrolling more low-income students, and creating a federal-state partnership to fund programs aimed at increasing college completion among low-income students. 

The funding partnership would also be used to incentivize states to invest in higher education by offering support for those committed to limiting tuition increases and keeping their full cost of attendance low, and by creating an “innovative fund” to encourage colleges and universities to experiment with strategies to reduce their costs while maintaining quality instruction. 

Bloomberg also took aim at the federal student loan system, proposing to enroll all new and existing student loan borrowers into income-driven repayment (IDR) plans and to cap monthly payments at 5% — down from the current 10%. Bloomberg’s plan includes forgiving loans after 20 years and ensuring that debt relief is tax-free for families making less than $250,000.    

Bloomberg also proposed to improve the Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) program by allowing “qualifying public servants who’ve applied for forgiveness in good faith under the program” to receive debt relief, as a majority of applicants continue to be rejected due to confusion around program requirements.  

Focusing on institutional quality, Bloomberg wrote he would work to pass the College Transparency Act — which would repeal the student unit record ban and the create a student-level postsecondary data system — “and use it to measure institutions’ improvements.” Bloomberg proposed to identify low-quality programs using their three- to five-year graduation rates, loan repayment rates, and completion rates for Pell-eligible students, adding that he would take into consideration the populations of students institutions serve when judging their quality. He also proposed reinstating gainful employment regulations “to hold predatory for-profit institutions accountable.” 

Bloomberg’s plan also includes free community college for all students and free tuition at four-year universities for low-income students, and intentions to end legacy admissions, invest more heavily in Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HCBUs), and strengthen career-training programs. 

Read the full proposal, and keep up to date on 2020 presidential candidate’s higher education platforms with NASFAA's Presidential Cheat Sheet. 


Publication Date: 2/19/2020

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