Last week, ranking member of the Committee on Education and the Workforce Congressman Bobby Scott joined House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi, Congresswoman Susan Davis and other House Democratic leaders to unveil their plans for reauthorizing the Higher Education Act. Their plan, dubbed the “Aim Higher Act” includes provisions to “give every student the opportunity for a debt-free college degree that leads to a rewarding career”. To accomplish this, the Democrats’ comprehensive debt-free college plan would commit additional funding to states to invest in their public colleges and universities in exchange for states offering two years of tuition-free community college.
The bill also contains a lot of other wins for students and consumers such as the expansion of Public Loan Service Forgiveness (PSLF), provisions for campus-based child care, and preservation of Borrower Defense to repayment rules. Additionally, aid programs would get a boost, by way of eliminating loan origination fees and making Pell grant funding mandatory while indexing the annual award increases to inflation.
For schools and colleges, it’s a mixed bag of expanded eligibility, and oversight, particularly aimed at the for-profit sector. The bill would expand federal student aid eligibility to “quality short-term programs”, those less than 600 hours in length, but would also prevent for-profit schools and colleges from including Veterans Educational Benefits in their calculation of the 90/10 revenue test. Another provision in the bill, would limit a school’s ability to spend “taxpayer money” on lobbying, marketing, and recruitment at institutions that don’t spend the majority of their federal student aid dollars on instruction.
With the midterm elections coming up, it’s unlikely that Republican or Democratic lawmakers will move to reauthorize the Higher Education Act before then. One thing’s for certain, the AIM HIGHER Act and the PROSPER Act vary drastically in approach and ideology, as do the current political parties. As in years past, you can bet the debate on the future of higher education will be front and center as the fight for control of the House continues this election season.
You can access key documents prepared by the Education & The Workforce Committee Democrats here.