“The reauthorization of the Higher Education Act is long overdue. It is an opportunity to increase access, affordability, and completion for students while advancing the short and long-term prosperity of our nation. While we continue to carefully review the bill, it’s already clear the measure includes provisions that would make college less accessible and affordable. It would also make some students more vulnerable to schools and programs that won’t serve their best interests. And it fails to make much-needed changes to improve data needed by students to make informed decisions on where to attend. APLU’s priorities for HEA reform provide a resource that we hope will be of use to members of Congress as the legislative process moves forward.
“By eliminating in-school interest subsidies on federal loans, the bill would needlessly drive up student debt. Students would see the interest on their loans grow as they study instead of having it deferred until they enter the workforce. By stripping away the Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant, the bill would make college less affordable for those with significant need. And in eliminating Graduate Plus loans, the bill would also push some students pursuing advanced degrees to more expensive loans in the private market.
“The provisions that could restrict funding for some minority serving institutions need to be carefully considered given many of those schools have been historically underfunded, especially public HBCUs.
“While we appreciate some positive steps in the bill towards better data for students, its approach is flawed. Data on earnings of graduates by program at each institution are essential, but the bill would only report such data for students who receive federal loans or grants. By maintaining the ban on a student level data network, the 30 percent of students who don’t receive federal loans or grants would be missing from that data. That means prospective students and their families will continue to receive misleading, incomplete data as they attempt to make informed decisions on where to attend college. Congress should bring higher education data into the 21st century by lifting the student-level data ban through the inclusion of language from the bipartisan College Transparency Act.
“The bill makes significant changes to institutional access of federal student aid that requires a careful and thorough review. We should ensure there are strong safeguards in place to protect students from institutions that won’t serve them well. We’re concerned the bill would block the Department of Education from appropriately holding “gainful employment” programs accountable for student outcomes. And the 90/10 provision ensures schools aren’t completely funding their operations with taxpayer-backed loans and grants. The 90/10 rule should be bolstered, not eliminated. Eliminating these provisions puts students and taxpayers unnecessarily at risk.
“We commend the inclusion of positive provisions such as increases in Federal Work Study, support for risk-based accreditation, and adoption of some recommendations of the bipartisan Task Force on Federal Regulation of Higher Education. We look forward to continuing to review the bill, offering our support for positive steps forward, and working with policymakers on areas in which the bill clearly needs improvement to support students and the contributions of higher education to our nation.
“We continue to urge lawmakers to consider APLU’s priorities for HEA reauthorization.”