NASFAA's Altitude: Biggest Political Questions for 2022

By Justin Draeger, NASFAA President and CEO

Welcome to NASFAA's "Altitude" a new Today's News series that aims to provide a 30,000-foot view on the intersections of economics, public policy, management, and student financial aid. Look for an assortment of links, reactions, conversations, and other missives from NASFAA President Justin Draeger and others. It may be easier to say what this series isn't: a place to find answers to tough regulatory and implementation questions. We'll be trying out this series over the next few months, so please send us your comments and follow us on Twitter

Near the end of 2021, Washington Post Political Reporter Amber Phillips poses the nine biggest political questions for 2022. Among them are: 

  1. What legislation, if any, do Democrats in Congress get done? 
  2. Do Democrats erode/eliminate the filibuster? 
  3. What does the January 6 committee find? 
  4. Do Republicans capture the majorities in Congress? 
  5. Will Joe Biden or Donald Trump announce their runs for president again?

I have those same questions, and will add the following: 

1. Will we see significant increases to the Pell Grant, and just as importantly when will we know?
With appropriations put off until mid-February, and Build Back Better now stalled, schools will have a tough time telling students just how much they can expect to see for the 2022-23 year.  

2. What's next for federal regulations?
The Department of Education (ED) has announced its next set of negotiated rulemaking.

a. Unsurprisingly, gainful employment will be rehashed yet again, potentially impacting not only for-profit schools, but all non-degree-granting programs as well.

b. More surprising was the announcement that ED is interested in exploring the definition of "administratively capable." This could provide an opening for schools to insert more prescriptive language that would bind their institution to providing resources to the financial aid office. But tying up institutional budgets with prescriptive regulatory requirements may come with downsides as well. A previous NASFAA task force struggled with those same questions.

3. Does Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) remain in the Democratic party?
Changing parties may be a longshot, but Machin comes from a state that voted overwhelmingly for former President Donald Trump. For a Democrat to survive in such a deeply red state is already a wonder. So, how long does a person get beat up by his own party before just crossing over? With the Senate currently split 50-50, losing one person would prove to be devastating to Biden's agenda, including his proposal for student aid.

Republican Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell has already made an overture saying he would love to have Manchin under the Republican tent. On the other side, Manchin has reportedly said that former Presidents Barack Obama and Bill Clinton have been lobbying him to line up behind Build Back Better. But, the biggest Democratic gun might just be Oprah.

4. Will Student Loans Be Forgiven?
So much has been written about something that has so few details that I hesitated to even add it to the list, but given how intrinsically this is tied into the latest repayment pause, and the continued pressure from debt forgiveness advocates, it's impossible to ignore.


Publication Date: 1/10/2022

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