Bills, Bills, Bills: Congress Closes July With Flurry Of Activity

By Brittany Hackett, Communications Staff

The end of July saw a flurry of activity on Capitol Hill, with the release of several higher education-related bills that ranged from expanding the Pell Grant to improving loan forgiveness for teachers.

Here’s a rundown of the bills and what they would do:

Protecting Financial Aid for Students and Taxpayers Act: Introduced on July 30 by Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH), this bill would prohibit institutions, regardless of type, from using federal student aid funding for advertising, recruitment, and marketing. The bill would also require schools that receive more than 65 percent of their revenue from federal financial aid funds to report their marketing spending to the Department of Education (ED) and certify that no federal education dollars were spent on marketing.

In addition, the bill would prohibit schools from using Post-9/11 GI Bill and military tuition assistance (TA) dollars to fund marketing expenditures. Currently, military tuition assistance and veterans’ education benefits are not counted as part of the the 90/10 rule, under which for-profit institutions can accept no more than 90 percent of their revenue from federal programs like the Pell Grant Program and other Title IV aid programs.

Jumpstart Our Businesses by Supporting Students (JOBS) Act: Sen. Tim Kaine (D-VA) introduced a bill to amend the Higher Education Act on July 30. The bill would expand Pell Grant eligibility to students enrolled in short-term job training programs. The annual maximum Pell award would be just half of the current discretionary amount, or $2,887, for these students, as their programs are often shorter and less costly.

Programs that lead to industry-based credentials and employment in high-need industry sectors and careers would be considered eligible. Institutions that participate in such programs must provide at least 150 clock hours of instruction time over at least eight weeks, provide training that addresses the needs of the local or regional workforce, and award students licenses, certifications, or credentials that meet the hiring requirements of more than one employer in the field for which the training is offered.

To ensure that Pell Grant recipients are earning quality credentials, the bill would require that the credentials meet the standards under the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act, are recognized by employers and industry or sector partnerships, and align with the skill needs of the state or local economy.  

Teacher Loan Repayment Act (TELORA): This bipartisan bill was also introduced on July 30 and aims to improve federal loan assistance programs for teachers by providing them with “clear and tangible incentives” to enter into a teaching career, according to a statement from Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT), one of the bill’s sponsors.

The bill would streamline student loan repayment options to one program that provides all eligible teachers with a monthly loan payment that would count toward public service loan forgiveness. The loan would be fully forgiven after 10 years. However, only teachers who choose to work in Title I schools – those that enroll at least 40 percent of children from low-income families – would be eligible for loan forgiveness.

The bill would also require the federal government to provide eligible teachers between $250 and $400 toward their loan payment each month, up to a total of $23,400. The payments, which would be administered through the states, would be non-taxable and if the monthly loan payment were less than the stated ranges, the remaining balance would go toward paying down the loan principal. These payments would also increase annually, which would reward teachers who stay in the profession long-term.

The bill’s sponsors, in addition to Hatch, include Sen. Mark Warner (D-VA) and Reps. Suzanne Bonamici (D-OR), Susan Brooks (R-IN), Richard Hanna (R-NY), and Derek Kilmer (D-WA).

Simplifying Student Aid for Students Act: On July 27, Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) reintroduced a bill that would allow students and families to use prior-prior year (PPY) tax information when filing the FAFSA. NASFAA, which has long supported using PPY income information, signed on to Booker’s original bill when it was released in 2014. The bill has already accrued thirteen co-sponsors in the Senate, all Democrats.

In addition to allowing the use of PPY, Booker’s bill would increase the expected family contribution (EFC) threshold to qualify for an automatic EFC of zero from $23,000 to $30,000.


Publication Date: 8/4/2015

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