Congress Surpasses 100 Bills on Student Aid as Busy September Begins

Stephen Payne, Policy & Federal Relations Team

With the introduction of four new pieces of legislation on Tuesday, Congress has now introduced more than 100 pieces of legislation relating to student financial aid in the eight months since the start of the 114th Congress in January.

With proposals ranging from institutional risk-sharing to free community college, Congress has demonstrated a strong interest in student financial aid programs, especially in light of the increasing attention to these issues brought by the pending reauthorization of the Higher Education Act (HEA), a process expected to begin before the end of the year in both the House and Senate education committees.

The Senate passed a bipartisan bill on elementary and secondary education programs in June – an encouraging sign as HEA emerges as the next priority. The bipartisan Senate bill must still be reconciled with the more-conservative House proposal in a conference, and a successful process there may lay a framework for a productive HEA reauthorization.

Since Congress first announced its consideration of HEA reauthorization in the summer of 2013, NASFAA has convened task forces and working groups to proactively consider several topics of interest to Congress, including FAFSA simplification, innovative learning models, consumer information, and campus-based aid allocation formula, among others. Most of all, NASFAA’s Reauthorization Task Force Report has guided the efforts of NASFAA’s Policy and Federal Relations Team since its publication in July 2013.

Legislation introduced from June to August was recently featured in the first edition of “The Capitol Recap,” NASFAA’s new monthly series that summarizes new bills put forth in the House and Senate with relevance to student financial aid administrators.

Congress returned to action on Tuesday and has an extraordinarily busy outlook for the next few weeks. The House of Representatives has 10 scheduled work days in the month of September with the Senate sitting at 15. With two days already past, House and Senate leaders have a busy month of lawmaking ahead of them.

A number of issues face Congress in September, including considering the President’s Iran nuclear agreement, reauthorizing the Federal Aviation Administration, approving highway funding, renewing tax breaks, and looking at school nutrition programs. Of importance to the higher education community, the Perkins Loan Program requires action by the end of the month or the program will sunset, which has been extensively covered in Today’s News.

Above all else, the federal government will shutdown on October 1 if a budget agreement does not pass Congress and earn the President’s signature. Presently, the most likely outcome of budget talks is a continuing resolution (CR) for several months, probably into December, according to a report in Politico. Republican leaders have unequivocally stated their opposition to shutting down the government, but some Republicans have announced plans to withhold support for any budget deal that would provide federal dollars to Planned Parenthood, an unexpected controversy that may create serious turmoil.

Be sure to check tomorrow’s edition of Today’s News for a more comprehensive update on the current federal budget landscape.


Publication Date: 9/10/2015

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