The administration has laid out its vision for a Student Aid Bill of Rights, that aims to make student loan borrowing easier and more affordable. In addition, APLU applauded Sen. Richard Durbin (D-IL) for introducing the American Innovation Act, which would reinvigorate federal investments in scientific research. Also, APLU joined other higher education associations in supporting the American Opportunity Tax Credit Permanence and Consolidation Act.
President Announces Student Aid Bill of Rights Effort
President Obama announced at Georgia Tech his vision for a Student Aid Bill of Rights (fact sheet), which outlined actions the administration will pursue to make student loan borrowing easier, fairer, and more affordable. As part of the effort, President Obama signed a Presidential Memorandum directing the Department of Education, the Department of Treasury, Office of Management and Budget, Office of Science and Technology Policy and other agencies to work across the government to address and improve loan servicing and repayment.
The actions include enhancing loan disclosures and strengthening consumer protections, establishing a centralized point of access for all borrowers in repayment to access federal loan account information, and clarifying the rights of federal student loan borrowers in bankruptcy. Of note, the plan calls for the Secretary of Education to create an online complaint and feedback system by July 1, 2016 for students and borrowers to file complaints about federal student loan lenders, servicers, collections agencies, and institutions of higher education. Specifically, the president notes he will direct the Department of Education to study how “complaints about colleges and universities, such as poor educational quality or misleading claims, should be collected and resolved and to strengthen the process for referring possible violations of laws and regulations to other enforcement agencies.”
The Student Aid Bill of Rights also builds on the existing and previously proposed efforts by the administration, such as simplifying the income-driven repayment plans, supporting the First in the World grant program, and establishing a college ratings system. Additionally, this new proposal includes an online petition for the students and the public to pledge support for the Student and Borrower Bill of Rights at: https://www.whitehouse.gov/college-opportunity.
Senator Durbin Introduces American Innovation Act; APLU Issues Statement of Support
Senator Richard Durbin introduced the American Innovation Act, which would boost basic research over a 10-year period across various federal science agencies. This legislation would increase funding by inflation plus 5 percent for the Department of Energy Office of Science; National Science Foundation; Department of Defense Science and Technology Programs; National Aeronautics and Space Administration Science Directorate; and the National Institute of Standards and Technology Scientific and Technical Research and Services.
APLU issued a statement saying “the American Innovation Act would help reverse the innovation deficit by lifting the misguided budget caps specifically for needed funding increases.” Additionally, the Close the Innovation Deficit coalition issued a supportive statement as did the Task Force on American Innovation. It’s been reported that Rep. Bill Foster (D-IL) plans to introduce a companion bill in the House of Representatives.
Higher Education Associations Endorse the American Opportunity Tax Credit Permanence and Consolidation Act
APLU and other higher education associations endorsed legislation introduced by Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY), the American Opportunity Tax Credit Permanence and Consolidation Act, to consolidate, improve, and make permanent higher education tax benefits.
In contrast to other recent related proposals, such as those included in the president’s FY2016 budget proposal and the House-passed legislation from 113th Congress, the Student and Family Tax Simplification Act offered by Representatives Diane Black (R-TN) and Danny Davis (D-IL), the Schumer bill would create a lifetime dollar cap on the benefit rather than a limitation on the number of years. This distinction is important to graduate students and non-traditional students who may take longer than four years to graduate.