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Action Alert: Higher Education Act

action alert

Dear Colleagues,

As you know from my email message to NAICU members a few days ago, and our recent Washington Update article from yesterday, the House Education and the Workforce Committee is planning to mark-up the first comprehensive rewrite of the Higher Education Act (HEA) in a decade as early as this Tuesday.  Even as you continue your work on Tax Reform, it is imperative that you also call your representative in the House to weigh in on the HEA bill. 

I know you may feel that you have taxed your relationships heavily already, but it is just this excessively short timetable for both bills that is at the heart of our concern, and the point that needs to be made with your elected officials. 

Below, are HEA talking points NAICU has developed for the issues that we believe would have the greatest impact on your students and your institution.  However, we encourage you to review our moreextensive summary to ensure you discuss the issues of greatest importance to your institution, as there will be great variation among our members. 

Talking Points

Introduction/Overview

  • The House Education and Workforce Committee is planning to mark up a 542-page bill that is the first significant re-write of the Higher Education Act in a decade. Just introduced on December 1, this bill, along with the impending tax bill, will have a profound impact on my students and my institution.  I hope you will do all you can to ensure this process includes substantive debate and discussion about how this bill would impact institutions, students, and campus communities.
  • I am concerned that such a significant piece of legislation, one that will govern upwards of a trillion dollars in federal spending, and many additional private dollars for enactment by colleges and universities, could be unnecessarily rushed before its full affects are known. 

Where we have Concerns

  • This bill would eliminate Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grants (SEOG), which have been in existence since 1972, are targeted to give the neediest Pell students additional grant aid, and require our colleges to match federal funding.  Loss of this program would have a profound effect on the poorest students at (my institution).
  • This bill would eliminate the feature in the student loan program that prevents the lowest-income students from being charged interest while they are in school.  This provision would substantially drive up the cost of student loans for the neediest. The federal government is already making a profit on these loans. There is no need to increase the government’s profit.
  • This bill would reduce the ability of graduate students and parents to borrow. While some loan limits might be a reasonable step, the proposed limits will make it exceedingly difficult for many of the students we serve to continue to attend our institution. I am also concerned about the elimination of graduate students from work-study.
  • We cannot even begin to know the effect of restricting students who have to borrow to go to college, or who are Pell-eligible, from only majoring in subjects in which recent graduates are making adequate loan repayments.  This is the kind of provision that needs thoughtful analysis before adopting.  I have similar concerns about not having time to fully analyze the new requirements for institutions to repay to the federal government the student aid received by those who drop out in the middle of a term.
  • Similarly, while the bill’s proposed restructuring of loan repayment is innovative, I would like to better understand the effect on my students. I am also concerned with the elimination of public service loan forgiveness.

Areas that we Support

  • I am very supportive of the Pell bonus for students who take 15 credits per semester.  This is a welcome approach that avoids the pitfalls of previous proposals to reduce the Pell Grant for students who are full-time, but taking less than 15 credits.
  • I support the elimination of origination fees on student loans.  
  • I support some of the deregulatory ideas in the bill, although I think the relaxation of the rules on for-profits goes too far.  All students will suffer if the integrity of the student aid programs comes into question, or if further cuts are then needed to make up for increased government liability from failed schools.  

Conclusion

  • The Committee has done some thoughtful work in assembling its bill.  However, the process needs to be slowed down to ensure we don’t unintentionally cripple our institution and the students we serve.

I know that I have asked you several times during the past few weeks to reach out to your congressional representatives.  I also know, however, that this outreach, coupled with NAICU’s efforts on the Hill, is having an impact.  Time is short and these bills are moving fast.  I hope that you will continue to reach out to your representatives, and ensure that your voice is heard on these issues that will affect all of higher education.

 

Sincerely,

David

Dr. David L. Warren 
President
NAICU 
1025 Connecticut Ave NW , Suite 700 
Washington, DC 20036 
(202) 785-8866