Legislative Letters 05-11-2022
Image Credit: Kaylynne Glover, “The Capitol”Read as PDF
Updates in Higher Education
As the world continues to feel the impacts of the Ukrainian Crisis, the Biden Administration is preparing to tackle the increasing inflation issues which affect the nation. Among the proposals being considered is a plan to potentially wipe $10,000 of student loans from every student, potentially stimulating the economy. However, many Republicans are fighting back, claiming that eliminating student loans will in fact hurt economic growth. This news comes as student debt hits the $1.8 trillion dollar mark.
THE EXECUTIVE BRANCH
DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION
This has been a busy couple months for The U.S. Department of Education. On the topic of Title IX, Biden’s Education Secretary, Miguel Cardona, has announced that new rules for university sexual misconduct could be coming as soon as this month. For the first time Cardona is considering codifying safeguards for transgender students into Title IX rules, as well as rolling back some of Devos’ changes . Although these rules will likely not go into effect until next year, the regulatory process will begin as soon as the Department of Education’s proposal is unveiled, and the public will be given a 30 to 60 day comment period.
In terms of student loans, The U.S. Department of Education is taking steps to remedy the fraught Income-Driven Repayment plans (IDR) for federal student loans, and will retroactively help millions of borrowers move closer to debt forgiveness. As the Department of Ed updates their systems and begins working on the new plan, it is estimated that 40,000 borrowers will automatically have their loans forgiven. Millions more will receive months, or years, of previously unusable ‘payment credit’ which will go towards their eventual cancellation.
THE WHITE HOUSE AND OTHER FEDERAL AGENCIES
In more student loan news, President Biden announced another extension of the student loan payment pause until September 1st, 2022. This comes as the student loan debt of the USA reached 1.8 trillion dollars, and is projected to continue growing at 6 times the growth rate of national GDP. This is the fourth time that Biden has extended the pause, and his administration has indicated that some concrete action could be coming in the near future. Both Biden’s Press Secretary and Chief of Staff have signaled that he will either announce a plan before the expiration or extend the loan payments once again to have more time to decide. We say, pick up the pen Joe!
THE LEGISLATIVE BRANCH
Below are important pieces of legislation impacting graduate and professional students that we are keeping an eye on:
(H.R 4002) Expanding Access to Graduate Education Act: This bill allows income-eligible graduate students who received Pell Grants during their undergraduate education to use their remaining Pell Grant eligibility for their first graduate degree (still subject to the existing 12-semester duration limit). Currently, Pell Grants are available only to undergraduate students.
- This bill has been referred to the House Committee on Education and Labor but has not moved since 6/17/21
(H.R 3946/ S. 2081) Pell Grant Preservation and Expansion Act of 2021: This bill makes changes to the Federal Pell Grant program, including by expanding student eligibility for Pell Grants. The bill also revises student eligibility for federal student-aid programs. Specifically, the bill provides funding to increase the maximum Pell Grant award for eligible students and requires the award amount to be adjusted for inflation. The bill also raises the total number of semesters during which a student may receive a Pell Grant from 12 to 18.
The bill allows students who receive means-tested federal benefits (e.g., Medicaid) to automatically qualify for the maximum Pell Grant award plus an additional award amount. In addition, the Iraq and Afghanistan Service Grant program is moved into the Pell Grant program.
The bill makes Dreamer students (i.e., students who have been granted Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals status) who entered the United States before the age of 18 and who meet certain educational criteria eligible for federal financial aid. The bill also updates academic progress requirements for federal student-aid programs by allowing a student who has not been enrolled for two years to regain eligibility for federal student aid.
- Referred to the Committee on Education and Labor and the Committee on the Budget. This bill has not moved from these committees since 6/16/21
(H.R. 2627) Pell to Grad Act: This bill raises the total number of semesters during which a student may receive a Pell Grant from 12 to 16. It also allows income-eligible graduate students who received Pell Grants during their undergraduate education to utilize their remaining Pell Grant eligibility toward their first graduate degree, subject to this 16-semester duration limit. Currently, Pell Grants are available only to undergraduate students, subject to the 12-semester duration limit.
- This bill has been referred to the House Committee on Education and Labor but has not moved since 4/16/21
Build Back Better
With the revised version of the Build Back Better again blocked in the Senate, be on the look out for parts of it making their way into other pieces of legislation. As of writing, a few sections of the Build Back Better have made it into smaller bills, such as a potential $500 billion for climate change infrastructure. Unfortunately, it does not appear that many of the higher education provisions will be moving forward. Stay tuned for other action on #doublepell, as well as expansion of Title IV provisions!
THE JUDICIAL BRANCH
THE SUPREME COURT
The Supreme Court has been under fire for the past two weeks as it attempts damage control after a leak from the Court’s office suggested an overturn of Roe v. Wade. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas stated, “When you lose that trust, especially in the institution that I’m in, it changes the institution fundamentally. You begin to look over your shoulder. It’s like kind of an infidelity that you can explain it, but you can’t undo it,” he said while speaking at a conference Friday evening in Dallas.
Indiana University graduate students recently concluded their strike for a student union for their university. Despite the threats from Indiana University that many of the graduate assistants could face repercussions and expulsion from the University, the students continued to hold their strike for over 4 weeks through finals. The University of Indiana has refused to submit as of the date of this publication.
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