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Senate HELP Committee Members Release Bills on College Affordability and Student Debt

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.

Following the passage of the Fiscal Responsibility Act, which raises the debt ceiling and limits federal funding for the next two years, Members of Congress, their staff, and education advocates alike have shifted their focus towards an FY 2024 spending bill. House Appropriations Committee chair Kay Granger (R-TX) announced on Monday that the Committee will continue to produce FY 2024 funding bills with new funding capped at the FY 2022 level, which is $119 billion below the FY 2024 discretionary level set in law by the debt limit deal. The level for the Labor-HHS-Education Appropriations Subcommittee is $60 billion or 29% below its FY 2023 level of $207 billion in discretionary funding. Your voices and advocacy efforts will be critical as we move toward an FY2024 spending bill.

President Biden Vetoes Effort to Shut Down $20,000 in Student Loan Forgiveness for Millions of Americans + Members of HELP Committee Release a Series of Bills on College Affordability and Student Debt

As you will recall, last week, President Biden vetoed a Republican-led piece of legislation that would have canceled his plan to forgive up to $20,000 in student debt for millions of Americans. While Republicans led on the bill, a handful of moderate Democrats joined their colleagues across the aisle to nullify the Biden-Harris Administration’s student debt relief program —citing the plan as too costly for taxpayers and unfair to Americans who did not attend college. That said, even with President Biden vetoing the bill, the future of the plan remains to be seen. The Supreme Court is preparing to rule in the coming weeks whether to allow the Biden Administration to proceed with the program.

Meanwhile, Republicans on the Senate HELP Committee released a package of five bills to increase transparency about college costs and financial aid, streamline repayment options by providing one standard 10-year repayment plan and one income-driven option, and to limit loans for graduate students. You can read more about the Lowering Education Costs and Debt Act.

On the same day that the package of bills was released by Senate HELP Republicans, Chairman of the HELP Committee Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) introduced his College for All Act. This bill would guarantee tuition-free community college for all students and allow students from single households earning up to $125,000 a year, and married households earning up to $250,000 a year. If passed, the College for All Act would also include the following:

  • Double the maximum Pell Grant award: $7,395 to $14,790 for the 2024-25 school year for students enrolled at public and private non-profit colleges;
  • Establish a $10 billion grant program for states participating in the federal-state partnership to scale evidence-based practices and strategies;
  • Triple Federal TRIO funding from $1.191 billion in FY23 to $3 billion in FY24;
  • Double GEAR UP funding from $388 million in FY23 to $736 million in FY24; and
  • Double mandatory funding for historically Black colleges and universities, tribal colleges and universities, and other minority-Serving institutions.

Live Interview with Jane West about Her New Book: Advocating for the Common Good: People, Politics, Process and Policy on Capitol Hill

Tune in next Wednesday June 21 from 9:00 – 10:00 a.m. ET to hear Jane West’s radio interview on the New York-based The Ballot Box, sponsored by the League of Women Voters.  You can hear it live on WVOX.COM.  It will also be recorded and available a week or so after the show.  

This is sure to be a lively event and a good way to get an overview of her book. 

Registration is Open for the Special Education Legislative Summit Hosted by CEC and CASE

Held in Washington, D.C., during July, the Special Education Legislative Summit (SELS) is an opportunity for educators from across the country to make a difference by advocating for change with Members of Congress. Come together with fellow educators and leaders in the field to learn more about advocacy and meet with your representatives to share what’s really happening in the field of special education. Hill visits will take place in person on Tuesday, July 11th, subject to the in-person policies of Congressional offices. Read more about and register for SELS.

New Resources for Educators

Wishing you all a wonderful weekend. Until next time, see you on Twitter, Kait @brennan_kait.

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