The opportunity to obtain a quality college-level education is associated with many desirable aspects of life, such as being able to find suitable employment that accords with an individual’s capabilities and interests, and also with having an improved chance to achieve a satisfactory level of income derived from participation in the U.S. economy. Public policy as represented by what occurs in the legislative and regulatory spheres is aimed at increasing student access to higher education, making the pursuit of academic degrees and certificates affordable, and guaranteeing an appropriate level of educational quality. Democrats and Republicans often fail to agree on the most effective means of fulfilling these objectives. The Higher Education Act (HEA) represents an important vehicle for enhancing progress, but it is clear that meaningful action needs to occur more swiftly. The HEA has not been reauthorized since 2008 and the prospect of its being enacted in 2018 continues to appear quite dim.
Democrats Introduce Plan In Congress To Reauthorize The Higher Education Act (HEA)
House Democrats on July 26, 2018 introduced their own plan called the Aim Higher Act (H.R. 6543) to reauthorize the HEA. It makes higher education more accessible by creating targeted programs that allow traditionally underrepresented students to enroll in college, strengthening existing access programs, simplifying the financial aid application, and ensuring students have access to a quality program. The proposed legislation also makes college more affordable today and addresses the rising cost of college to reduce the burden on students in the future. Generally, the bill offers a set of counterpoints to the Republican version of this legislation, known as the Promoting Real Opportunity, Success and Prosperity Through Education Reform (PROSPER) Act (H.R. 4508). Democrats intend to offer legislative choices that are more generous than current programs for students and borrowers by increasing funding levels for Pell Grants, for example, and making loans more affordable. The bill also would revive the Perkins Loan Program, which expired last year, and restructure the Federal Work-Study and Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant programs. Whereas the PROSPER Act would eliminate regulations on for-profit colleges, drop benefits for student borrowers, such as Public Service Loan Forgiveness, and streamline other student aid programs, the Democrats’ bill not only rejects many aspects of PROSPER, it would make current accountability rules tougher and direct new federal funds to student aid and programs for college readiness and completion.
U.S. Department Of Education Proposes New Set Of Higher Education Regulations
The Department of Education on July 25, 2018 proposed a new package of higher education regulations aimed at protecting student borrowers; holding higher education institutions accountable for misrepresentation and fraud; and providing financial protections to taxpayers by at-risk institutions. The Institutional Accountability regulations were published on the Department’s website after months of public hearings and negotiated rulemaking that engaged a wide variety of higher education interested parties. These proposed regulations that were open for public comment over the next 30-day period include:
Establish a borrower defense to repayment adjudication process that is clear, consistent, and fair to borrowers who were harmed by institutional misconduct.
Replace the current “state standard” for adjudicating claims with a Federal standard that clearly defines misrepresentation and enables more expeditious review of student claims.
Facilitate collection and review of evidence for deciding claims and ensure that the Secretary of Education can recoup from institutions the financial losses associated with successful borrower defense claims.
Encourage students to seek remedies directly from institutions that have committed acts of misrepresentation.
Expand from 120 days to 180 days the period of time during which students who left an institution prior to its closure are eligible for a closed school loan discharge while at the same time incentivize closing institutions to engage in orderly teach-outs, which enable more students to complete their program.
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