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GOP Takes On Higher Education & Student Loan Programs

by Countable | 12.13.17

What’s the story?

Not since 2008 has Congress attempted to update the Higher Education Act – the federal law that governs how the federal government supports and regulates higher education institutions.

Now House GOP leaders, led by Virginia Foxx (R-NC), chair of the House Committee on Education and the Workforce, aim to tackle updating the 1965 law. They have introduced the Promoting Real Opportunity, Success, and Prosperity through Education Reform (PROSPER) Act, which outlines reforms to student loans, credit hour definitions and federal work study programs.

Supporters maintain the reforms will give rise to creativity and innovation in programs offering students post secondary degree programs. Critics fear the rollback of regulations focused on reining in the worst possible abuses by for-profit colleges will leave students vulnerable to exploitation.

Here are some of the highlights of the House bill. A Senate version is expected in 2018.

  • Permanent repeal of the "gainful employment" rule, which requires for-profit programs guarantee students can gain employment at which student loan payments do not exceed a specified percentage of their income post-graduation.

  • Permanent repeal of the "borrower defense" rule, which allows for forgiveness of student loan debt if it is found that a school misled students or otherwise defrauded them.

  • Permanent repeal of the "credit hour" rule, which set minimum requirements for awarding college credit hours.

  • Requiring full-time credit hours to qualify for federal Pell Grants, and incentivizing the same.

  • Increasing annual federal loan limits for dependent undergraduate borrowers.

  • Setting graduate student federal loan limit of $28,500 annually, regardless of overall tuition.

  • Setting parent federal loan limit of $12,500, regardless of overall tuition.

  • Phasing out graduate student eligibility for the Federal Work Study program in order to increase fund availability to undergraduates.

  • Creating an Apprenticeship Grants Program, to encourage business-to-institution partnerships. Offers Pell Grants to students enrolled in short-term, certificate or vocational programs.

  • Changing aid payments to biweekly payments, rather than lump sum payments per term.

  • Streamlining federal debt payment options to two- a ten-year fixed plan, or a 15 percent of income option.

  • Eliminating of loan forgiveness and forbearance programs.

What do you think?

Is the PROSPER Act heading in the right direction in terms of higher education and federal student loan reform? Why or why not? Will these changes affect you directly? Is that a good thing or a bad thing?

Tell us in the comments what you think, then use the Take Action button to tell your reps!

— Asha Sanaker

(Photo Credit: Ken Lund via Flickr / Creative Commons)

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