As of the first week of March 2018, the Senate’s Health, Education & Labor Committee has held eight hearings to help move along the Higher Education Act’s (HEA) reauthorization. We are still a bit of time away from a potential bill but progress has been seen, even with all of the other congruent issues Congress is dealing with.
“The fact that they’re doing once-a-week hearings is an indication that this isn’t just some random thing that they want to look like they’re working on,” says Tamara Hiler, senior policy advisor and higher education campaign manager at Third Way. “I’ve been really, really surprised at the nuance of the questions that have been asked, which indicates to me how seriously they are taking this process.”
The House’s Education & Workforce Committee has also had some serious involvement with bill writing, including governors from seven different states, along with Republican chair, Virginia Foxx, of North Carolina. Both sides of the aisle are agreeing that they can see eye to eye on a variety of issues, including reducing the number of federal loan repayment programs along with simplifying the FAFSA process. But there are also portions of discussion that Democrats and Republicans continue butting heads over, including the possible elimination of the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program (PSLF). Foxx’s counterpart on the Democratic side, Rep. Bobby Scott, a Democrat from Virginia, has slammed the proposal as “a partisan strategy” drafted behind closed doors.
Both Education Secretary DeVos and President Trump have not said much in terms of specifics they are looking for when it comes to the HEA reauthorization. The President has backed the Republican proposal of eliminating the PSLF and reducing the amount of loan repayment programs to just one but beyond that, the Trump administration has left many of the ideas up to Congressional leadership. This is one of the main reasons Congress has been so busy working on a resolution and ultimately a bill that will work for both parties. The House and Senate leadership believe a bill could be ready as soon as this spring and will need bi-partisan support to pass. HEAG continues to closely follow the HEA process as it makes its way through Congress and will bring you future updates as new details unfold.
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