House GOP Pushes ED for Cost Estimate on Student Loan Debt Relief Proposals

By Hugh T. Ferguson, NASFAA Senior Staff Reporter

A pair of top House Republicans are calling on the Department of Education (ED) to provide cost estimates and promised regulatory text from the recent negotiated rulemaking committee on student debt relief, with the lawmakers expressing concern over the administration's efforts to implement loan forgiveness without congressional approval.

In a letter penned by Reps. Virginia Foxx (R-N.C.), chair of the House Education and the Workforce Committee, and Jody Arrington (R-Texas), chair of the House Budget Committee, the lawmakers – who have long opposed the White House’s effort to carry out student debt relief – request that ED provide Congress with cost estimates associated with the programs, and details on the unreleased regulatory text developed during December’s student loan debt relief committee.

The committee reached consensus on a number of proposals — such as providing forgiveness when a loan is eligible based on repayment plan, or waiving the outstanding balance of a loan received by a borrower associated with gainful employment programs with high debt-to-earnings rates or low median earnings — but did not reach consensus on others. Where the committee did reach consensus, the regulatory text ED publishes in its proposed rule will reflect the language the committee agreed to. The other portions, however, can be drafted as ED sees fit, presumably taking into account the comments and discussion from the neg reg committee.

“ED’s latest student loan bailout attempt will, like its prior actions, result in significant costs to working-class Americans,” the lawmakers wrote. “While ED claims these illegal actions are narrowly targeted, the regulatory draft text indicates the newest plan is expansive and in direct conflict with federal statute.”

The leaders requested ED provide details on the “hardship waiver” regulatory text that was proposed in the committee’s agenda. During the committee sessions, ED did not provide negotiators with regulatory text, instead saying the department would possibly consider holding another session to further discuss the issue.

Foxx and Arrignton questioned whether the department plans to use that unpublished issue paper to carry out a larger scale of student loan debt cancellation.

“Despite three regulatory convenings, ED failed to provide regulatory text on a so-called ‘financial hardship’ waiver, thus enabling the administration to, once again, shift hundreds of billions of dollars in debt from those who willingly took out loans to those who did not,” the letter read.

Specifically, the letter makes two requests of ED. First, the lawmakers question whether the department has produced cost estimates for each proposal put forth by the committee and if those estimates will be made public.

Second, the lawmakers want to know when more details will be provided concerning the “financial hardship” waiver, and whether that text will also contain cost estimates.

“We remain deeply concerned about the fiscal and economic impact of ED’s current negotiated rulemaking, especially after ED refused to allow even a single individual representing the interests of taxpayers to sit on the rulemaking panel,” the letter reads. “The administration’s insistence on circumventing Congress underscores the need for oversight.”

The letter called on the department to provide answers on these two questions no later than January 30, 2024.


Publication Date: 1/18/2024

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