Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-La.), ranking member of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee, in a panel discussion on Wednesday, outlined his higher education priorities with an update on key Republican legislation that seeks to lower the rising costs of higher education, protect borrowers from growing student loan debt, and rein in the executive branch’s efforts to overhaul the student aid system without congressional approval.
During the discussion Cassidy outlined his Lowering Education Costs and Debt Act, and updated stakeholders on Republcan’s Congressional Review Act (CRA) resolution seeking to overturn the Saving on Valuable Education (SAVE) plan.
In June, Cassidy, along with other Republican Senators, introduced the Lowering Education Costs and Debt Act, a package of five bills which they said would lower the rising costs of higher education and rising amount of student loan debt. Part of the package includes Cassidy’s College Transparency Act, which has bipartisan support, with Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s (D-Mass.) endorsement, and is supported by NASFAA.
At the panel on Wednesday, hosted by the American Enterprise Institute (AEI), Cassidy said his legislative package aims to solve issues with the student debt crisis that aren’t addressed by President Joe Biden’s stalled student loan forgiveness plan, which would have canceled up to $20,000 in student loans for eligible borrowers.
“[The Lowering Education Costs and Debt Act] sets out to make the young person an informed consumer as to what is the best place for he or she to get their education — not just the school, but the curriculum, how much they're going to have to borrow, how much they'll earn,” Cassidy said. “And that when they borrow money, they’ll have an offer sheet that they can compare between different banks and lenders.”
During the discussion Cassidy was asked about the College Cost Transparency Initiative (CCT), which earlier this week announced that over 360 higher education institutions across the country had voluntarily committed to follow its set of principles and standards for the financial aid offers they communicate to undergraduate students. These institutions serve more than 4 million college students across the United States.
Cassidy said the CCT is a “good idea which is beginning to flower,” but that more work still needs to be done.
“Do I think every single university will adopt [CCT’s principles and standards] on their own?” Cassidy said. “Absolutely not.”
The panel also covered Republicans' most recent CRA, which Cassidy and 14 other Senate Republicans introduced in an effort to overturn the SAVE repayment plan. Rep. Lisa McClain (R-Mich.) and Rep. Virginia Foxx (R-N.C.), chair of the House Committee on Education and the Workforce, introduced a companion resolution in the House.
Cassidy acknowledged that Biden will veto the CRA resolution if it passes both the House and Senate. Rather, he said the resolution would serve as a “message” to the Biden administration. Currently, the CRA resolution has only been approved out of the House Committee on Education and the Workforce.
“It's a strong statement but it doesn't have the effect of stopping his action,” Cassidy said.
Cassidy went on to say that the administration was attempting to implement the SAVE plan in an effort to bolster his political favorability at the expense of taxpayers.
Cassidy was also asked about student loan payments beginning to be due at the start next week, and if he has any concerns, especially with a government shutdown becoming more likely.
In response Cassidy said that last week he had a call with the Department of Education (ED) on their plan to return borrowers back to payment, which ED described as “very aggressive outreach.”
However, Cassidy expressed concern of the Biden’s administration year-long on-ramp to repayment, where interest would still accrue on student loan balances, but a borrower would not enter into default status if they miss a payment.
“If you haven't been paying for three years, it's going to be mighty easy not to get to continue to not pay — except you're going to have interest continuing to accumulate upon the money that you borrowed,” Cassidy said. “I think that giving someone 12 months is no better than giving them six months, or giving them four months, it is a false compassion.”
Publication Date: 9/29/2023