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Conversations About Federal Student Loans, Grants and More

The Conversation Surrounding Student Loan Forgiveness Continues 

Young male college student holding a sign of student loan

Young male college student holding a sign of student loan

This weekly Washington Update is intended to keep members informed on Capitol Hill activities impacting the educator preparation community. The views expressed in this post do not necessarily reflect the views of AACTE.  

Last week, the White House signaled that President Biden is considering taking steps towards student loan forgiveness for people making less than $125,000 per year. “The President talked back on the campaign about taking steps, or looking at steps, to help people making less than $125,000 a year,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki said. “So that is the frame through which he’s considering making considerations at this point.”

In April of 2020  while on the campaign trail, President Biden released a plan to, “forgive all undergraduate tuition-related federal student debt from two- and four-year public colleges and universities for debt-holders earning up to $125,000 with appropriate phase-outs to avoid a cliff.”

Just last week the President said that he was considering  canceling “some” amount of federal student loan debt but ruled out demands to forgive as much as $50,000 per borrower. “I am considering dealing with some debt reduction,” The President said in remarks at the White House. “I am not considering $50,000 debt reduction.”

The Department of Education for its part has focused student loan forgiveness efforts on specific populations of borrows. The Department has now approved more than $18.5 billion in loan discharges for more than 750,000 borrowers.

This includes

  • $6.8 billion in for more than 113,000 borrowers through Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF).
  • More than $8.5 billion in total and permanent disability discharges for more than 400,000 borrowers.
  • Last week the Department also announced fixes to long-standing problems in income-driven repayment that will help thousands of borrowers receive forgiveness through that program as well as 40,000 borrowers receive PSLF.

Bi-Partisan Group of Senators Urge the Department of Education to Hold Off on Proposed Changes to the Federal Charter School Grant Program

A bi-partisan group of Senators are urging the Department of Education to hold off on proposed changes to the federal charter school grant program. The group of Senators, led by Senator Tim Scott (R-SC) and Senator Diane Feinstein (D-CA) sent a letter  to Secretary of Education Dr. Miguel Cardona asking the Department to:

“…revise the Notice of Proposed Priorities (NPP) in a manner that ensures that high-quality public charter schools are able to continue to expand using CSP funds and permit schools to apply under the most recent guidelines issued for Fiscal Year 2020. This will allow grantees to compete fairly for federal funds and give relevant stakeholders the opportunity to review and properly engage with the Department on these proposed changes for consideration in future grant competitions.”

In addition to Senators Scott and Feinstein, the letter was signed by Senators Booker (D-NJ), Bennet (D-CO), Rubio (R-FL), Burr (R-NC), and Cassidy (R-LA).

The proposed changes would require nonprofit charter grant applicants to submit a “community impact analysis” that sets out whether demand in a given area for a charter school is sufficient and describes how the proposed charter would avoid increasing racial or socioeconomic segregation in surrounding public school districts.

Department officials have said that nothing in the proposed requirements would prevent a charter school from receiving funds if it is located in a district with declining enrollment. “I support all high-quality schools, including public charter schools,” Secretary Cardona recently told congressional appropriators. “I think the proposals are reasonable, and what they ask for is greater accountability, transparency and fiscal responsibility.” 

In the States: New York Governor Prohibits IHEs from Withholding Student Transcripts over Debt

On Wednesday, New York Governor Kathy Hochul signed legislation that bans Institutions of Higher Education (IHEs) from withholding student transcripts due to unpaid debts. The legislation also prohibits IHEs from charging students who owe debts a higher fee in order to receive their transcript. Governor Hochul said transcripts are key for students to continue pursuing their educational and career goals. 

“To hold transcripts hostage until outstanding debts are paid is an unfair, predatory practice that prevents our students from reaching their full potential…I was proud to make ending transcript withholding a top priority and took action to end this practice at SUNY and CUNY in January. Today, we put an end to this abhorrent policy for all higher education institutions to ensure a level playing field for New York’s students.”

State Senator Kevin Thomas (D-Nassau), one of the bill’s sponsors, described transcript withholding as a “disruptive, counter-productive, and harmful practice” that prevents students from being able to transfer credits, reenroll in school to complete their degrees or get jobs that can help them pay their balances. “Each withheld transcript represents a student who was denied the opportunity to pursue a chosen career path, denied access to social and economic mobility through higher education, and ultimately denied access to the American Dream,” Thomas said in a statement.

New Resources for Educators

  • National Student Clearinghouse Research Center released a new report on the undergraduate transfer enrollment at colleges and universities and pathways for the spring of 2022, in comparison with the patterns in the previous years. It analyzes 11.2 million undergraduate students, including 630,000 transfer students, as reported by 89.4 percent of colleges as of March 24, 2022.
  • National Council on Teacher Quality issued a brief examining the status of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) provisions, now six years after it was signed into law. The brief looks specifically at how states have responded to collecting and reporting on the equitable distribution of teacher talent across their schools.
  • NPR/Ipsos released results of a poll among parents of school-aged children. Results show that while most parents report their children are making up learning lost during the pandemic, parents of children who receive special education services more often report that their child is still behind.

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