E-Alerts Blog

ACCT's Latest Action in Washington (LAW) E-Alerts provide important updates on cirtical federal higher education policy matters to interested parties through regular email notices. These E-Alerts are compiled in a blog, below. Sign up to receive LAW E-Alerts by email

 

Dept. of ED Announces Loan Counseling Experimental Sites 

August 17, 2016 – The US Department of Education has released additional details on a pilot program that will allow some institutions to require additional counseling for federal student loan borrowers beyond what is currently required under law. The goal of these experimental sites is to determine whether requiring additional loan counseling has an impact on academic achievement, financial literacy, and loan repayment. Institutions wishing to participating in the pilot must submit a letter of interest to the Department of Education, as outlined here:  http://bit.ly/2bm3IQu. Letters must be received by September 29th for consideration.

The Department of Education has also issued on fact sheet on the loan counseling experimental sites, which may be viewed here:  http://bit.ly/2bjfkC9.

 

ED Releases Proposed Rule on State Authorization of Distance Education

July 22, 2016 – The U.S. Department of Education (ED) has released a new iteration of a proposed rule over state authorization of distance learning. The proposal would regulate how colleges and universities providing distance education become authorized to offer courses to students located in other states. It would also require additional consumer information, and set up a process for addressing student complaints against distance education programs. The latest proposed rule includes a notable change from prior proposals; gone is a requirement that states provide an active review of out-of-state colleges seeking authorization.

ED has previously attempted to move forward with state authorization regulations, but faced legal roadblocks. ED will be accepting comments on the proposed rule through August 24th. A final rule will likely be released by the end of October, for a July 1, 2017 implementation.

Additional information may be viewed here:  http://bit.ly/2ah2DfA.

 

House Moves Education Funding Bill Through Committee

July 14, 2016 – Today, the House Committee on Appropriations completed the markup of its fiscal year (FY) 2017 Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education (LHHS-ED) funding bill. The bill passed out of full-committee by a vote of 31 to 19.

The committee report on the LHHS-ED bill was released in conjunction with the markup. The report provides additional information on funding levels and policy riders included in the bill. The report may be viewed here: http://bit.ly/29EDl5k.

The Pell Grant program is cut by more than $1.3 billion under the bill. This cut lowers the discretionary funding level, as opposed the Senate funding bill which opted to rescind funding from the surplus. By lowering the Pell Grant discretionary baseline, the proposed cut would likely be carried over in future years. While it would not impact Pell Grant eligibility or award levels for the upcoming academic year, the proposed cut could bring forth a funding shortfall for the Pell Grant program much sooner than currently projected. Despite the cut, the Pell Grant maximum is still estimated to increase by $120, bringing the maximum award to $5,935 for 2017 – 2018 academic year.

Many education programs saw level-funding under the House FY 2017 LHHS-ED bill, including:

  • Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grants;
  • Federal Work Study;
  • Perkins Career and Technical Education;
  • Adult Basic Education State Grants;
  • Title III (a) Strengthen Institutions; and
  • Title III and Title V programs for Minority Serving Institutions.

TRIO received a $60 million increase, and GEAR UP received a $22 million increase under the bill. The Child Care Access Means Parents in School (CCAMPIS) program is eliminated under the bill.

The bill blocks a number of federal regulations from moving forward, including the new overtime rule, gainful employment, defining credit hour, state authorization of distance learning, and teacher preparation. The bill also prevents the administration from withholding federal funding to states that do not follow directives on transgender students' access to restrooms.

Numerous amendments were offered during the markup, including an amendment to reinstate the year-round Pell Grant. Although the amendment failed, it did receive bipartisan support and a commitment from the committee chairman to continue conversations regarding the reinstatement of year-round Pell during omnibus negotiations. An amendment was also offered to reinstate funding for CCAMPIS, along with several other programs. That amendment failed, but the chairman committed to reexamine the funding levels during omnibus discussions. An amendment was also offered to reverse the funding ban for Gainful Employment regulations. That amendment failed.

The LHHS-ED bill will not be considered on the House floor. Negotiations on a FY 2017 omnibus package will occur later this year. Additional information on the markup, including an archived webcast, may be viewed here:  http://bit.ly/29CuBC8.

 

House to Consider Higher Ed Bills

July 11, 2016 – Today, the House will consider five bipartisan higher education bills.

• HR  5528, Simplifying the Application for Student Aid Act – This bill would authorize the use of prior-prior year (PPY) income data when submitting the FAFSA application. Last year, President Obama took executive action to implement PPY.  This would authorize it into law.

• HR 3179, Empowering Students Through Enhanced Financial Counseling Act – This bill would expand counseling requirements for recipients of federal student aid.

• HR 3178, Strengthening Transparency in Higher Education Act – This is a consumer information bill aimed at providing data to prospective students and families.

• HR 5529, Accessing Higher Education Opportunities Act – This bill expands the permissible use of funds for Hispanic Serving Institutions under Title V to include activities that support dual enrollment and providing support for students to pursue doctoral degree programs in health fields.

• HR 5530, HBCU Capital Financing Improvement Act – This bill aims to assist HBCUs in understanding and accessing the resources available under the HBCU Capital Financing program.

The bills passed unanimously out of the House Committee on Education and the Workforce last month, and are expected to pass on the House floor. It is unlikely that the bills will be considered by the Senate. Additional information on the bills may be viewed here:  http://bit.ly/29KfCUd.

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On Wednesday at 10 AM, the House Committee on Appropriations will markup its fiscal year 2017 funding bill for Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education. The bill passed out of subcommittee last week along a party-line vote.  Additional information on the markup will be posted here:  http://bit.ly/29CuBC8

 

House Committees Advance Bills on CTE and Education Funding 

July 7, 2016 – Today, the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education marked up its fiscal year (FY) 2017 funding bill. The overall allocation for the funding bill is $569 million below last year's enacted level. The bill includes a $1.3 billion cut to the Pell Grant program. While this cut would not immediately impact eligibility or award levels, it could bring forth a programmatic shortfall sooner than anticipated. 

Several amendments were offered during the markup, including an amendment offered by Congresswoman Lucille Roybal-Allard (D-CA) to reinstate the year-round Pell Grant. The amendment failed along party lines. Subcommittee chairman Tom Cole (R-OK) spoke on the amendment saying he was "reluctantly" opposed, citing a lack of authority to provide changes in mandatory spending and reluctance to include authorizing provisions on an appropriations bill. The chairman stated that the conversation on year-round Pell will continue as members negotiate the final funding bill with the Senate. The Senate education funding bill, which passed out of committee last month, including a provision to reinstate year-round Pell Grants.

Subcommittee ranking member Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) offered an amendment that would reinstate funding for a number of programs, including reversing the $1.3 billion cut to the Pell Grant program. That amendment did not pass.

The funding bill also includes a number of policy riders dealing with federal regulations. The bill blocks a number of Department of Education regulations from moving forward, including gainful employment, defining credit hour, state authorization of distance learning, and teacher preparation. The bill also blocks the new overtimes rules from moving forward. Congresswoman Barbara Lee (D-CA) offered an amendment to strike some of those riders, including the one blocking the overtime rule.  That amendment failed.

The FY 2017 funding bill passed out of subcommittee by a party line vote of 8 to 4. It is expected that the bill will be marked up in full-committee next week. A archived webcast of the hearing, as well as a copy of the bill may be viewed here:  http://bit.ly/298X0Lr.

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The House Committee on Education and the Workforce also held a markup this morning on a bill to reauthorize the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act. The bill passed out of committee by a unanimous vote. ACCT and AACC sent the following letter to the committee chairman and ranking member providing comments and thanking them for their reauthorization efforts:  http://bit.ly/29pxC9u. The bill may be considered on the House floor, although the timing is unclear. The House is scheduled to recess July 15th, and not return till after Labor Day. Additional information on the markup may be viewed here: http://bit.ly/29qf1Hf.

 

House Releases FY 2017 Education Funding Bill

July 6, 2016 – The House Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education has released its fiscal year (FY) 2017 funding bill. The overall allocation for the bill is $569 million below last year's enacted level. The bill is being offered by subcommittee chairman Tom Cole (R-OK), and will be marked up tomorrow at 9:45 AM.

* Bill Text: http://bit.ly/29wtiVs

* Information on the Markup: http://bit.ly/298X0Lr

* Committee Press Release: http://bit.ly/29u9d09

The FY 2017 bill cuts $1.3 billion from the Pell Grant program. The Pell Grant program currently has a $7.8 billion surplus going into FY 2017. The cut will not impact award levels or eligibility for the current or upcoming academic year, but could bring forth a programmatic shortfall sooner than anticipated. The Pell Grant maximum is still estimated to increase by $120, bringing the maximum award to $5,935 for 2017 – 2018 academic year.  A restoration of year-round Pell Grants was not included in the House bill. Reinstating year-round Pell will likely be revisited during final omnibus negotiations since it was included in the Senate bill. 

State grants under the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act are were largely level funded under the bill, with grants for dislocated workers getting a $20 million increase.  However, the Dislocated Worker Assistance National Reserve fund was cut by $100 million.

The bill includes funding levels for larger categories; hence, some programmatic funding levels are not yet publicly available. Overall funding for 'career, technical, and adult education' was level, indicating that state grants for Perkins Career and Technical Education and state grants for Adult Basic Education are also level funded. Funding for 'higher education' sees a small cut of $5.5 million. This category encompasses a number of programs, including, but not limited to TRIO, GEAR UP, Strengthening Institutions, Child Care Access Means Parents in School, as well as programs that support Minority Serving Institutions.  Also, the bill provides level funding for Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grants and Federal Work Study.

The bill blocks a number of Department of Education regulations from moving forward, including gainful employment, defining credit hour, state authorization of distance learning, and teacher preparation.

ACCT will provide additional details on the bill as they become available. 

 

House Schedules Markups of CTE and Funding Bills

July 5, 2016 – This Thursday, the House Committee on Education & the Workforce will markup a Perkins Career and Technical Education (CTE) reauthorization bill. The CTE bill, H.R. 5587 reforms existing law by easing some federal requirements, and streamlining the application process. It also reforms accountability metrics, and seeks to align CTE programs more closely with the needs of business and industry.  A summary of the bill may be viewed here:  http://bit.ly/292F1Ki.

Additional details on the CTE markup may be viewed here:  http://bit.ly/29w2TUP.

Also on Thursday, the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education will markup its FY 2017 funding bill.  The funding bill has not yet been released. Additional details on the markup will be posted here: http://bit.ly/298X0Lr.

 

Perkins CTE Reauthorization Bill Introduced in the House 

June 29, 2016 – A bipartisan bill to reauthorize the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act (CTE) has been introduced in the House. Sponsored by Reps. Glenn "GT" Thompson (R-PA) and Katherine Clark (D-MA), the Strengthening Career and Technical Education for the 21st Century Act reforms several areas of the current law. It simplifies the state plan application process by allowing states to submit a combined plan for CTE and the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act. It also seeks to simplify the application process for local education providers.

The bill increases the Title I set aside from 10 to 15 percent, allowing states more flexibility in distributing the funding to support innovation and areas of high need. It also reforms accountability metrics for CTE, focusing on outcomes, earnings, and credentials earned by program completers.

A bill summary may be viewed here:  http://1.usa.gov/292F1Ki

Bill text may be viewed here: http://1.usa.gov/2903X0f.

The Department of Education (ED) is moving forward with plans to simplify the federal student aid application process for unaccompanied homeless students. The action is in response to a recent report by the Government Accountability Office that found that homeless and foster youth face additional barriers in applying for student aid. Details on ED's plans may be viewed here: http://1.usa.gov/298RSuV.

 

House Ed & Workforce Committee Passes Higher Ed Bills

June 22, 2016 – Today, the House Committee on Education and the Workforce approved five higher education bills by unanimous consent. The bipartisan bills addressed areas ranging from consumer information and counseling for federal student aid borrowers, to FAFSA simplification and enhanced supports for Minority Serving Institutions. Additional details on the bills may be viewed here:  http://1.usa.gov/28XuSMR. The bills will likely be considered on the House floor in the coming weeks. It is unlikely they will be considered by the Senate.

A meeting of the National Advisory Committee on Institutional Quality and Integrity (NACIQI) is underway in the nation's capital. The role of NACIQI is to advise the Department of Education (ED) on recognition of institutional accreditors. During the meeting NACIQI will be reviewing multiple accreditors, including the national accreditor Accrediting Council for Independent Colleges and Schools (ACICS). Last week, ED recommended that ACICS be terminated for failing to meet the criteria required of institutional accreditors. While ACICS does not serve as an accreditor to community colleges, it does oversee 766 institutions and campuses – many of which are for-profit. If ACICS is ultimately terminated by ED those institutions would have to find a new accreditor or face the loss of Title IV aid access.

 

House Ed & Workforce Committee to Markup Series of Higher Ed Bills

June 21, 2016 – Tomorrow, at 10 a.m. the House Committee on Education and the Workforce will markup the following higher education bills:

  • HR  5528, Simplifying the Application for Student Aid Act – This bill would authorize the use of prior-prior year (PPY) income data when submitting the FAFSA application. Last year, President Obama took executive action to implement PPY.  This would authorize it into law.
  • HR 3179, Empowering Students Through Enhanced Financial Counseling Act – This bill would expand counseling requirements for recipients of federal student aid.
  • HR 3178, Strengthening Transparency in Higher Education Act – This is a consumer information bill aimed at providing data to prospective students and families.
  • HR 5529, Accessing Higher Education Opportunities Act – This bill expands the permissible use of funds for Hispanic Serving Institutions under Title V to include activities that support dual enrollment and providing support for students to pursue doctoral degree programs in health fields.
  • HR 5530, HBCU Capital Financing Improvement Act – This bill aims to assist HBCUs in understanding and accessing the resources available under the HBCU Capital Financing program.

Additional information on the bills and markup may be viewed here: http://edworkforce.house.gov/calendar/eventsingle.aspx?EventID=400834.

ACCT joined with other higher education associations to send the following letter on the bills to be marked up: http://bit.ly/28LPOqJ. All the bills are bipartisan, and are expected to pass out of committee. They will be considered on the House floor in the coming weeks. It is unlikely that they Senate will take up any of these bills before the end of the legislative session.

 

ED Releases Rulemaking Proposal on Borrower Defense

June 13, 2016 – The U.S. Department of Education (ED) has released a notice of proposed rulemaking on borrower defense to repayment. The proposed regulations are aimed at protecting federal student borrowers in the areas of transparency and debt relief, and outline ways in which a borrower may discharge student loan debt. ED sought to update rules on borrower defense following the collapse of Corinthian Colleges, holding three negotiated rulemaking sessions earlier this year. At the end of those sessions negotiators could not reach consensus, hence permitting ED to write its own proposal.

The proposed regulations cover a number of areas, including:

  • Setting into place a borrower defense process to review claims, and standards by which federal student loan debt may be discharged;
  • Establishing a standard for group-wide discharges;
  • Establishing triggering and early-warning events, which would require schools to put up funds, in the form of letters of credit;
  • Requiring institutions who must post letters of credit to notify prospective and enrolled students;
  • Requiring proprietary institutions to notify prospective and enrolled students regarding poor loan repayment outcomes; and
  • Setting a ban on mandatory arbitration, and permitting class action law suits.

A fact sheet on the proposed regulations may be viewed here:  http://1.usa.gov/28x0yRa.

Comments on the proposed regulations are due August 1st. The full notice of proposed rulemaking, including details on submitting comments, may be viewed here:  http://1.usa.gov/1QQxtrU.

 

Committee Passes Funding Bill to Reinstate Year-Round Pell

June 9, 2016 – This morning, the Senate Committee on Appropriations passed its fiscal year (FY) 2017 Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education (LHHS-ED) funding bill by a vote of 29 to 1.  The bill includes a provision to reinstate the Year-Round Pell Grant. This provision is estimated to provide one million students who have exhausted their Pell Grant eligibility for the year with an additional disbursement, up to 150 percent. The average additional award is estimated to be $1,650 during the 2017-2018 academic year. It would be available to qualified full-time and part-time students, and allow financial aid administrators greater flexibility in administering the additional disbursement. The provision is similar to the Year Round Pell Grant Restoration Act (S. 1062 and H.R. 1958) introduced by Senator Hirono (D-HI) and Congressman Hinojosa (D-TX). ACCT has issued a joint statement with AACC supporting the restoration:   http://bit.ly/28nRpKF.

ACCT remains concerned about a 3 percent reduction in funds to support state grants under the Workforce Innovation Opportunity Act, as well as a $1.2 billion rescission of the Pell Grant surplus. While the rescission will not impact award levels or eligibility for the current or upcoming academic year, it could bring forth a programmatic shortfall sooner than anticipated.  It is unknown whether the Senate LHHS-ED bill will be considered on the Senate floor, and the House does not currently have a markup scheduled for their version of the LHHS-ED funding bill. Only four more weeks of legislative session remain before the August recess.

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Today, the House Committee on Education and the Workforce held a hearing entitled, "The Administration's Overtime Rule and Its Consequences for Workers, Students, Nonprofits, and Small Businesses." The hearing examined the potential impact of the recently released final rule on changes to overtime under the Fair Labor Standards Act. Set to take effect on December 1, 2016, the rule will raise the salary level from its previous amount of $455 per week (the equivalent of $23,660 a year) to $913 per week (the equivalent of $47,476 per year) in 2016. Additional information on the hearing may be viewed here:  http://1.usa.gov/1Y9BCKw.

Additionally, ACCT is co-sponsoring a webinar on the new overtime rules led by the American Council on Education. The webinar will take place on Friday June 17, at 1 PM. Those interested in participating may register here: http://bit.ly/1OeHjVI.

 

Senate Education Funding Bill Includes Year-Round Pell Restoration 

June 7, 2016 – This morning the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education (LHHS-ED) marked up its fiscal year (FY) 2017 funding bill. The bill was reported out of the subcommittee, and will be considered by the full-committee Thursday morning. This is the first time in seven years that there has been a bipartisan LHHS-ED bill in the Senate. The Senate Appropriations Committee has sent out the following press release providing some additional details of what is included in the bill:  http://1.usa.gov/1svc5Qs.

Included in the package is a restoration of the Year-Round Pell Grant. This provision is estimated to provide one million students who have exhausted their Pell Grant eligibility for the year with an additional disbursement, up to 150 percent. Both full-time and part-time students will be eligible. The average additional award is estimated to be $1,650 during the 2017-2018 academic year. Initially authorized under the 2008 reauthorization of the Higher Education Act, Year-Round Pell was subsequently eliminated in 2011 appropriations process when the Pell Grant program faced a sizable shortfall. Projections for the Pell Grant program have changed drastically over the past 5 years with the program presently carrying over a $7.8 billion surplus going into FY 2017. The existing surplus will largely offset the cost of reinstatement of the Year-Round Pell Grant. Community colleges strongly advocated for the inclusion of Year-Round Pell in the FY 2017 bill.

Under the bill the Pell Grant maximum is set to increase once again for academic year (AY) 2017-2018. This increase is estimated at $120, bringing the maximum award to $5,935. However, the final number is subject to change based on the consumer price index. The bill does cut the Pell Grant surplus providing a rescission of $1.2 billion. The rescission will not impact award levels or eligibility for the current or upcoming academic year, but could bring forth a programmatic shortfall sooner than anticipated.

The bill has not yet been released, but programmatic funding levels have begun to circulate. With an overall funding level that was $270 million less than last year there was not a lot of room for increases. Funding for the National Institute for Health was increased by $2 billion, leaving a reduced allocation for all remaining programs. Many education programs saw level-funding under the FY 2017 LHHS-ED bill, including:  Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grants, Federal Work Study, Perkins Career and Technical Education, Adult Basic Education State Grants, TRIO, and GEAR UP. State Grants under the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act are cut under the bill by $73 million, or 2.7 percent.  ACCT will provide additional details on funding levels as they become available. 

 

Senate to Begin Markup of FY 2017 Education Funding Bill Tomorrow

June 6, 2016 – Tomorrow morning, the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education will markup its fiscal year (FY) 2017 funding bill. While the bill has yet to be released, we do know that it is a bipartisan package offered by the subcommittee chairman, Senator Roy Blunt (R-MO), and ranking member, Senator Patty Murray (D-WA). A major issue is what will become of the existing $7.8 billion surplus for the Pell Grant program. Community colleges are advocating that the surplus be utilized to reinstate Year-Round Pell, and that any remaining surplus funds are retained within the Pell Grant program. News outlets are reporting that a Year-Round Pell restoration will be included in the bill. ACCT will provide more information as it becomes available.

Even if Congress were to reinstate Year-Round Pell within the FY 2017 bill a multi-billion dollar surplus would remain for 2017. Congress may raid that surplus to fund other programs. With a subcommittee allocation that is $270 million lower than last year's bill there is very little room for any programmatic increases without tapping the Pell Grant surplus. Additionally, it's possible that Senators may offer amendments during Thursday's full-committee markup that would utilize the Pell Grant surplus as an offset to provide increases to other health, education, or labor programs. If that were to occur it would not impact the Pell Grant award level or eligibility for the upcoming fiscal year, but would likely bring the program into funding shortfall sooner than anticipated. ACCT is opposed to reallocating the Pell Grant surplus to fund other programs.

Information on both markups may be viewed here:  http://www.appropriations.senate.gov/hearings.

We encourage community college leaders (who have not already done so) to contact their representatives to support Year-Round Pell, and oppose redirecting Pell Grant funds: http://bit.ly/1Mo3zLB.

ACCT and AACC's joint funding priorities for FY 2017 may be viewed here:  http://bit.ly/1Um4N7V.

A joint higher education association letter addressing the Pell Grant surplus and Year-Round Pell may be viewed here:  http://bit.ly/28fjXWG.

 

Final Rule on Overtime Released by Department of Labor

May 18, 2016 – The U.S. Department of Labor has released its final rule on overtime under the Fair Labor Standards Act. The Administration estimates that the new rule will extend overtime protections to 4.2 million Americans who are not currently eligible under federal law. Once effective, the rule will raise the salary level from its previous amount of $455 per week (the equivalent of $23,660 a year) to $913 per week (the equivalent of $47,476 per year) in 2016. The rule will also raise the compensation level for highly compensated employees from its previous amount of $100,000 to $134,004 annually. The final rule also establishes a mechanism for automatically updating the salary level every three years, with the first update to take place in 2020. These changes take effect on December 1, 2016. The final rule may be viewed here:  https://s3.amazonaws.com/public-inspection.federalregister.gov/2016-11754.pdf.

The final rule does not include any changes to the duties tests, which affect the determination of who is exempt from overtime. Hence, some employees at postsecondary institutions will remain ineligible for overtime, including:  professors, adjunct instructors, teachers, coaches, graduate and undergraduate students, and academic administrative personnel. Academic administrative personnel are classified as those who help run higher education institutions and interact with students outside the classroom, such as department heads, academic counselors and advisors, intervention specialists and others with similar responsibilities (they also must be paid at least as much as the entrance salary for teachers at their institution). Administrative employees who do not meet the special provision for academic administrative employees will be eligible for overtime if they earn below the salary level set in the final rule and they work more than 40 hours in a week.  Additionally, workers whose duties are not unique to the education setting—like managers in food service or supervisors of security guards—will be covered by the final rule. Public institutions may also be able to use compensatory time as an option to satisfy their obligation to provide overtime compensation.

The Department of Labor has released an overview of the final rule for higher education, as well as guidance.  They may be viewed here:  https://www.dol.gov/sites/default/files/overtime-highereducation.pdf, and here:  https://www.dol.gov/whd/overtime/final2016/highered-guidance.pdf.

The College and University Professional Association for Human Resources (CUPA-HR) in partnership with ACCT will be offering a webinar on the overtime final rule. The webinar will be on Wednesday, May 25th from 1:00 to 2:30 pm ET.  Please click here to register for the webinar:  http://www.cupahr.org/events/webinar-20160525.aspx.

Also on the regulatory front, the Department of Education has released a Q&A on cash management to assist institutions as they prepare for July 1st implementation. The information covers requirements relating to Tier One and Tier Two arrangements, the student choice menu, fee limitations, disclosures, books and supplies, and confirming student eligibility. The Q&A may be viewed here:  http://ifap.ed.gov/eannouncements/051216CashManagementQuestionsandAnswers.html.

Yesterday, the House Committee on Education and the Workforce held a hearing focused on the reauthorization of the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act. Witnesses included Monty Sullivan, President of the Louisiana Community and Technical College System. Testimony, as well as an archived webcast of the hearing may be viewed here: http://edworkforce.house.gov/calendar/eventsingle.aspx?EventID=400663.

 

Dept. of ED Announces Dual Enrollment Experimental Sites

May 16, 2016 – The U.S. Department of Education has invited 44 postsecondary institutions to participate as experimental sites for dual enrollment. This pilot program will allow students taking college-credit courses to access Federal Pell Grants as early as high school. As part of this experiment, an estimated 10,000 high school students will have the opportunity to access approximately $20 million in Federal Pell Grants to take dual enrollment courses provided by colleges and high schools throughout the nation. Nearly 80 percent of the selected sites are community colleges. A fact sheet on the announcement, as well as a list of institutions invited to participate may be viewed here:  http://www.acct.org/files/Advocacy/Dual%20Enrollment%20Fact%20Sheet.pdf.

Tomorrow at 10 am EDT, the House Committee on Education & the Workforce will hold a hearing entitled, "Helping Students Succeed by Strengthening the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act." The hearing will address issues concerning the reauthorization of the Perkins Career and Technical Education Act. Additional information, as well as a link to a live webcast may be viewed here:  http://edworkforce.house.gov/calendar/eventsingle.aspx?EventID=400663.

 

ED Releases New Information on Ability to Benefit and Career Pathways 

May 9, 2016 – The U.S. Department of Education (ED) has released a Dear Colleague Letter clarifying changes made to the definition of ‘career pathways’ for the purpose of qualifying as eligible program under the Pell Grant’s Ability to Benefit provision.  Ability to Benefit allows students who don’t have a high school diploma or GED to qualify for Title IV student aid if they can demonstrate their ability to undertake postsecondary coursework through testing or successful completion of six credit hours. Ability to Benefit was eliminated in fiscal year (FY) 2011 in order to generate savings for the Pell Grant program. Over the last two appropriations cycles Congress has partially reinstated Ability to Benefit for qualified students enrolled in career pathway programs. In the FY 2016 omnibus appropriations bill Congress modified the definition of career pathway for Ability to Benefit; aligning it with the existing federal workforce definition and potentially allowing a broader range of programs to qualify.

Institutions interested in qualifying under Ability to Benefit should review the following information released by ED:  http://www.ifap.ed.gov/dpcletters/GEN1609.html.

 

White House Announces $100 Million Promise Grants

April 25, 2016 – Today, Vice President Joe Biden and Dr. Jill Biden are at the Community College of Philadelphia to announce a new $100 million grant competition aimed at expanding community college programs that offer full-tuition assistance and connect Americans to in-demand jobs. 

America's Promise Grants will be awarded to pilot and scale innovative partnerships among employers, economic development, workforce development boards, community and technical colleges and systems, training programs, K-12 education systems, and community-based organizations that will strengthen the pipeline of Americans ready for in-demand jobs, bridge students' educational opportunities and employer needs, attract more jobs from overseas, and create more pathways for Americans to reach the middle class through the following activities:

•             Increase opportunities for all Americans. With the rising costs of higher education, post-secondary education remains out of reach for many Americans. Grantees will develop strategies to increase tuition-free opportunities for unemployed, underemployed, and low-income workers to enter skilled occupations and industries. Grantees will use and align existing resources to help sustain and scale up programs.

•             Expand employer engagement. These regional partnerships from employers to support program design and delivery and identify skills and competencies needed to meet businesses' needs. Employer partners will offer innovative ways for skills attainment through work-based learning and customized 'upskilling' strategies to move low-skilled individuals up a career pathway with registered apprenticeship, paid-work experience, and paid internship opportunities.

•             Strengthen education and training performance. Grantees will reduce the need for remediation, and increase skills development through evidence-based interventions. Grantees are encouraged to use evidence-based designs that can increase the employability, employment, earnings, and educational outcomes of students, while supporting employers' economic growth.

Grants will be administered by the Department of Labor, and are expected to launch early this summer. ACCT will provide more information as it becomes available. Additionally, Dr. Biden has written a blog post about today's event, which may be viewed here:  http://1.usa.gov/1T9gP42.

 

New CBO Estimates Show Significant Surplus for Pell Grant Program 

March 24, 2016 – Today, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) released cost estimates and projections for the Pell Grant program. The revised estimates show a significant surplus for the next several fiscal years. For fiscal year (FY) 2017 the Pell Grant program will have a surplus of $8.7 billion (assuming level discretionary funding for FY 2017). A surplus will remain in place until FY 2025. This represents a significant shift over last year's estimates which predicted a shortfall as early as FY 2018. CBO's March baseline number for the Pell Grant program are the official numbers used for the year, and may be viewed here: http://1.usa.gov/1MEObpd.

ACCT released a statement on the Pell Grant surplus, and the importance of retaining surplus funds for disadvantaged students, which may be viewed here:  http://bit.ly/22IxYsa.  Given the scale of the surplus, ACCT is concerned that Congressional appropriators may identify the Pell Grant program as a source of funds to be diverted to other priorities. We encourage community college leaders to write their members of Congress to urge them to protect the Pell Grant program, and utilize the Pell Grant surplus to facilitate the reinstatement of year-round Pell Grants:  http://bit.ly/1Mo3zLB.

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The House Committee on the Budget has released its report on the FY 2017 budget resolution. The report provides further details on proposed changes to the Pell Grant program and other federal student aid. All proposals are non-binding even with passage of the budget resolution.

The budget resolution calls for the elimination of mandatory Pell Grant funding, and freezing the Pell Grant maximum at the current level ($5,815) for the next decade. It would also eliminate Pell Grants for less-than-half-time students, eliminate the administration fee paid to intuitions to administer grant aid, and set an income cap for Pell Grant recipients. The budget resolution also proposes rolling back changes to the Pell Grant needs analysis formula passed under the College Cost Reduction and Access Act of 2007. These formula changes to income protection allowance and automatic zero Expected Family Contribution were particularly beneficial to non-traditional and working students, and a roll back would have a disproportionate impact on the that student population. The budget also proposes eliminating Public Service Loan Forgiveness, and in-school interest subsidies for undergraduate students.

The full report may be viewed here: http://1.usa.gov/22Iy9nm. The budget resolution passed out of committee last week, but has not yet been scheduled for a floor vote in the House.

 

House Marks Up FY 2017 Budget Bill

March 16, 2017 – Today, the House Budget Committee is marking up its FY 2017 budget resolution. The budget resolution sets the overall appropriations cap for the House, and outlines numerous non-binding spending proposals. Ultimately, it's up to the Appropriations Committee to determine funding distribution based on the topline numbers. The House's FY 2017 budget resolution provides the same funding level for nondefense discretionary appropriations as was agreed to in last year's bipartisan budget agreement. However, for FY 2018 and beyond, the budget proposes slashing nondefense discretionary spending by $877 billion over ten years.  This is a 18.6 percent reduction.

Other non-binding proposals in the budget resolution include freezing the Pell Grant maximum at FY 2016 levels for the next ten years. Additionally, the budget calls for targeting federal financial aid for those most in need, streamlining existing aid programs, and removing regulatory barriers in higher education. Additional information on the budget may be viewed here:  http://budget.house.gov/fy2017/.

Yesterday, Senator Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) along with 30 Democratic Senators introduced the 'In the Red Act,' which combines a number of current proposals addressing college affordability. The In the Red Act includes implementation of America's College Promise, indexing the Pell Grant maximum award to inflation beyond 2017, and providing a path for student borrowers to refinance their federal loans. The bill proposes paying for these proposals by making changes to the tax code. Details on the bill may be viewed here:   https://www.baldwin.senate.gov/press-releases/in-the-red-act.

Today, U.S. Secretary of Labor Thomas Perez testified before the House Committee on Education and the Workforce on the department's priorities for FY 2017. Secretary Perez addressed a number of areas including implementation of the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act, as well as proposed changes to overtime rules. Additional information on the hearing, as well as an archived webcast of the hearing may be viewed here:  http://edworkforce.house.gov/calendar/eventsingle.aspx?EventID=400399.

 

Senate Set to Vote this Evening on King Nomination

March 14, 2016 – The Senate is scheduled to vote this evening on the nomination of current Acting Secretary John B. King, Jr. to serve as U.S. Secretary of Education. Last week, his nomination was moved out of the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) by a vote of 16 to 6 in favor of his confirmation. While King has received some bipartisan support he has also received criticism during recent committee hearings. This includes concerns raised by Senate HELP Committee Chairman, Lamar Alexander (R-TN) and Senator James Lankford (R-OK) over the department's enforcement of guidance in handling Title IX complaints. Additionally, Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) recently pressed the Acting Secretary over the mishandling of direct loan interest rates for active duty and veteran servicemembers.  Prior to serving as Acting Secretary, King served as principal senior advisor at the Department of Education. He also previously served as chief executive officer of the State Education Department and as president of the University of the State of New York.

On Wednesday, March 16th the House Committee on Education and the Workforce will hold a hearing at 10 am "Examining the Policies and Priorities of the U.S. Department of Labor." U.S. Secretary of Labor Thomas Perez will testify. In addition to budget priorities for FY 2017, the hearing will also likely address new overtime rules being proposed by the Department of Labor. Additional information, as well as a live webcast will be posted here:  http://edworkforce.house.gov/calendar/eventsingle.aspx?EventID=400399.

 

Senate Committee Votes to Confirm New Education Secretary

March 9, 2016 – Today, the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions voted to confirm current Acting Secretary John B. King, Jr. as U.S. Secretary of Education. The committee voted 16 to 6 in favor of his confirmation, sending the nomination to the full Senate for consideration. Prior to serving as Acting Secretary, King served as principal senior advisor at the Department of Education. He also previously served as chief executive officer of the State Education Department and as president of the University of the State of New York. President Obama officially nominated King for the position of Secretary in February.

 

House Holds Hearing on ED Budget Request

February 24, 2016 – Today, the Acting Secretary for the U.S. Department of Education, John King, testified at a hearing held by the House Committee on Education and the Workforce on the President's fiscal year (FY) 2017 budget request for the Department of Education. Secretary King discussed proposed higher education funding, as well as a number of proposal included in the budget. Some of these items included: year-round Pell Grants; America's College Promise; an On-Track Pell Bonus, and the American Technical Training Fund. Additionally, he answered questions regarding student loans, federal regulations, funding for Minority Serving Institutions, and departmental operations. Additional information on the hearing, as well as an archived webcast may be viewed here:  http://1.usa.gov/1SREvPk.

Tomorrow at 2 pm, Acting Secretary King will appear before the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions for executive session to review his nomination to serve as Secretary of Education. Additional information, and a live webcast of the session will be posted here:  http://1.usa.gov/1WJ9bAo.

The National Student Clearinghouse Research Center has released a supplement to a signature report on a state-level view of student attainment rates. The report focuses on six-year student success outcomes and college completion rates by state. By tracking students over a longer period of time and including those that transfer to other institutions, this report provides valuable insight into postsecondary completion rates. The report may be viewed here:  https://nscresearchcenter.org/signaturereport10-statesupplement/.

 

Higher Education Proposals in President Obama's FY 2017 Budget Request

February 16, 2016 – Last week, President Obama released his fiscal year (FY) 2017 budget request. Included in the budget are federal funding recommendations, as well as federal policy proposals. While virtually all of the President's budget requires Congressional approval, it does set a marker for the upcoming Congressional budget and appropriations process.

ACCT Public Policy has created the following document to provide a summary of higher education proposals in the President's FY 2017 budget request: http://bit.ly/1Ko0nPC.

Additionally, the Department of Education's justifications of appropriation estimates to Congress may be viewed here: http://1.usa.gov/1PZFuKS.

 

ED Announces New Proposals to Modify the Pell Grant Program

January 19, 2016 – With the President's fiscal year (FY) 2017 budget request just a month away, the Department of Education (ED) has announced two new proposals for expanding the Pell Grant program. The first proposal would provide an additional $300 in Pell Grant assistance for students who take 15 credit hours per academic semester; providing a bonus for students who are taking more than a full-time course load.  The second proposal would restore year-round Pell by allowing full-time students who have exhausted their Pell Grant benefits an additional disbursement for summer coursework. ED estimates this proposal will provide nearly 700,000 students next year with an additional $1,915 on average to help pay for college. ACCT has concerns regarding limiting the additional disbursement to full-time students. It is ACCT's position that year-round Pell Grants should be made available to all students, not just those enrolled full-time. When financially needy students stay enrolled year-round they are more likely to persist in and ultimately complete their programs, regardless of enrollment intensity.

In addition to these new recommendations, ED has once again reaffirmed its support for prior legislative proposals.  This includes the America's College Promise proposal, designed to provide two-years of community college for qualified students.  Support was also reiterated for continuing to index the maximum Pell Grant award to inflation beyond 2017, and creating a financial bonus for colleges that enroll and graduate a significant number of low- and moderate-income students. ED also noted its proposed American Technical Training Fund, aimed at providing competitive grants to support the development, operation, and expansion of innovative, evidence-based, and tuition-free job training programs in high-demand fields.

These proposals will likely be included in the President's FY 2017 budget request, scheduled to be released on February 9th. Additional information on ED's recommendations may be viewed here:  http://1.usa.gov/1WrdlND. All of these plans would require Congressional action to be implemented into law. 

 

Congress passes Omnibus, Tax Extenders Bill, and Perkins Loan Extension

December 18, 2015 – Congress  is wrapping up its legislative work for 2015, passing a $1.1 trillion omnibus spending bill, a $680 billion tax package, as well as a two-year extension of the Perkins Loan program. The omnibus bill included a $1.2 billion increase for the Department of Education. This increase was made possible by the bipartisan budget deal that passed earlier this month. Within the omnibus the Pell Grant program was level funded for FY 2016, paving the way for an estimated $140 increase for the maximum award for next academic year. Additionally, the omnibus bill allows students eligible to receive a Pell Grant under Ability to Benefit (ATB) to have access to the maximum award amount. Last year's omnibus appropriations bill did not provide enough funding to support the full maximum award for new ATB students after July 1, 2015.  The bill also expands the definition of career pathways for ATB students; aligning it with the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA), and potentially simplifying administration for institutions.

The omnibus bill includes an additional $13 million for Adult Basic Education state grants, a funding increase of $60 million for federal TRIO programs, an $86 million increase for WIOA, and another $21 million for GEAR UP. Additionally, the bill includes over $40 million in additional funding for Aid for Institutional Development (Title III/Title V). This includes an additional $6 million for Strengthening Institutions (Title III Part A), as well as an additional $7 million for Developing Hispanic Serving Institutions. The bill provides level funding for Perkins CTE state grants, SEOG, and Federal Work Study. The First in the World program is eliminated under the bill. The omnibus bill text may be viewed here:  http://docs.house.gov/billsthisweek/20151214/CPRT-114-HPRT-RU00-SAHR2029-AMNT1final.pdf.

The tax extenders package includes a permanent extension of the American Opportunity Tax Credit, as well as a permanent extension of tax-free distributions from individual retirement plans for charitable purposes. The bill includes an extension through 2016 for above-the-line deduction for qualified tuition and related expenses, as well as qualified zone academy bonds. A section by section summary of the tax extenders bill may be viewed here:  https://rules.house.gov/sites/republicans.rules.house.gov/files/114/PDF/114-SAHR2029Ex-SxS.pdf

The House and Senate have also passed a two-year Perkins Loan extension, reviving the program which had expired at the end of September. The bill allows current undergraduate borrowers to receive Perkins Loans only after exhausting their subsidized Direct Loan eligibility, and new undergraduate borrowers may receive Perkins Loans after exhausting both their subsidized and unsubsidized Direct Loan eligibility. Additionally, moving forward only graduate students who currently receive a Perkins Loan may be eligible to receive an additional disbursement.

 

Congress Rolls Out Omnibus and Tax Extenders Bills

December 16, 2015 – The House and Senate have released a bipartisan, bicameral FY 2016 omnibus appropriations package, as well as a tax extenders bill.  Both bills are significant for community colleges and their students. The Pell Grant program was level funded for FY 2016 under the omnibus bill, paving the way for an increase in the maximum award amount for next academic year. This is a favorable change from the House and Senate appropriations bills introduced earlier this year that included cuts to the Pell Grant surplus. Additionally, the omnibus includes a restoration of the maximum Pell Grant award for students who qualify under Ability to Benefit (ATB). The partial restoration of ATB eligibility in the 2015 omnibus appropriations bill did not provide enough funding to support the full maximum award for new students after July 1, 2015. The 2016 omnibus bill remedies this. While ATB students would still need to be enrolled in a qualified career pathway program to be eligible to receive Pell, the 2016 omnibus revises the definition of career pathway to align with the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA). 

The omnibus bill includes an additional $13 million for Adult Basic Education state grants, a funding increase of $60 million for federal TRIO programs, and another $21 million for GEAR UP. Additionally, the bill includes over $40 million in additional funding for Aid for Institutional Development (Title III/Title V). This includes an additional $6 million for Strengthening Institutions (Title III Part A), as well as an additional $7 million for Developing Hispanic Serving Institutions. The bill provides level funding for Perkins CTE state grants, SEOG, and Federal Work Study. The First in the World program is eliminated under the bill.

For the Department of Labor funding for state grants under WIOA is increased by $86 million, including: an additional $39 million for adult employment and training; an increase of $41 million for youth activities; and another $6 million for dislocated workers. The bill also increases WIOA Governor's Reserve from 10 percent to 15 percent. The omnibus bill text may be viewed here:  http://docs.house.gov/billsthisweek/20151214/CPRT-114-HPRT-RU00-SAHR2029-AMNT1final.pdf.

The tax extenders package includes a permanent extension of the American Opportunity Tax Credit, as well as a permanent extension of tax-free distributions from individual retirement plans for charitable purposes. The bill includes an extension through 2016 for above-the-line deduction for qualified tuition and related expenses, as well as qualified zone academy bonds. A section by section summary of the tax extenders bill may be viewed here:  https://rules.house.gov/sites/republicans.rules.house.gov/files/114/PDF/114-SAHR2029Ex-SxS.pdf

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The Senate has just passed an extension of the Federal Perkins Loan program by unanimous consent. The bill is a two-year extension of the program with some modifications. New graduate students would no longer qualify for Perkins Loans, and graduate students with existing loans would only qualify for a new loan through September 2016. The bill would also require borrowers to exhaust their eligibility for both subsidized and unsubsidized direct loans before becoming eligible to receive a Perkins Loan. The bill is expected to be considered in the House in the coming days.

 

Congress Passes Short-Term Funding Extension

December 11, 2015 – With current fiscal year funding expiring at midnight tonight, Congress has passed a stop-gap measure that will keep the government funded through December 16th. The five-day continuing resolution will provide negotiators with additional time to put together a final FY 2016 omnibus package. Reports indicate that agreement has been met on funding levels, but there are a number of policy riders that leaders of the House and Senate Appropriations Committees have yet to agree upon.  It is expected that a final bill could be posted by Monday. The bill will likely be tied to a tax extenders package. 

 

ACCT Releases New Report on Hunger and Homelessness Among Community College Students

December 7, 2015 – In partnership with the Healthy Minds Study, Single Stop, and the Wisconsin HOPE Lab, ACCT is pleased to announce the released of a new report examining food and housing insecurity among community college students.  The report shines a spotlight on the real rates of food and housing insecurity among community college students and describes changes that community colleges and federal and state policymakers can implement to improve food and housing security so that students can persist in their studies through to the successful completion of a college degree.  The report authors surveyed more than 4,000 students at 10 community colleges in California, Louisiana, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York, Wisconsin and Wyoming, and found that fifty-two percent of those surveyed indicated they were struggling with food insecurity, housing insecurity, or both. The report may be viewed here:  http://bit.ly/1jDToEZ.  Additionally, on Friday The New York Times ran an op-ed written by the authors of the report, which may be viewed here:   http://nyti.ms/1QruLs7.

 

Urge Congress to Support Funding Priorities for Community Colleges

November 17, 2015 – Now that a budget deal is in place congressional appropriators are working to complete a FY 2016 omnibus funding package. Friday is the deadline for the appropriations subcommittees to complete their work, and report any unresolved issues to the full committee for consideration. This is a critical time to contact your Members of Congress to show support for key higher education programs, including the Pell Grant program. Both the House and Senate Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education appropriations bills removed approximately $300 million in surplus Pell Grant program funds to support other programs. With the additional resources at its discretion, Congress should restore these cuts. To weigh in on Pell Grant funding, and funding for other key federal programs, click here:  http://action.acct.org/18970/support-funding-higher-education-in-2016-omnibus-bill/.

Tomorrow, at 9 a.m. the House Subcommittee on Higher Education and Workforce Training and the House Oversight and Government Reform Subcommittee on Government Operations will hold a joint hearing titled, "Federal Student Aid: Performance-Based Organization Review."  The hearing will provide Members of Congress an opportunity to learn about the challenges at FSA, as well as discuss opportunities to improve the agency to better serve students. Additional information, as well as a live webcast may be viewed here:  http://edworkforce.house.gov/calendar/eventsingle.aspx?EventID=399754.

 

Department of ED Annouces Executive Actions on Accreditation

November 6, 2015 – The U.S. Department of Education (ED) has announced a series of executive actions and recommendations to Congress on postsecondary accreditation. ED seeks to increase transparency and compel accreditors and Congress to place a greater emphasis on student outcomes. These actions include: publishing individual accreditor's standards for evaluating student outcomes; expanding transparency; increasing coordination between ED and accreditors; and publishing institutional metrics for postsecondary institutions arranged by accreditors. The expanded transparency includes urging accreditors to make their processes and decisions available to the public, and requiring a decision letter to ED when an institutions is place on probations. Additional details on the executive actions may be viewed here: http://www.acct.org/files/Advocacy/exec-actions-factsheet.pdf. 

ED is limited by the steps it can take on forcing accreditors to place more emphasis on student outcomes due to restrictions set forth in the Higher Education Act. In lieu of this authority, ED has made several recommendations that would require legislative approval by Congress. These include repealing the current federal ban that prevents the Administration from imposing standards for student outcomes on accreditors. ED also recommends that "Congress provide for the differentiated recognition of accreditors based on student outcomes and other risk-based criteria. Such differentiation will allow the Department to better reward high-performing accreditors with reduced burden, such as fast-track recognition and less-frequent recognition reviews, and provide more rigorous and frequent recognition processes for low-performing accreditors." Other legislative recommendations include: increasing planning and 'teach-out' plans for institutions at risk for sudden closure; establishing standardized, common definitions and data reporting for accreditors; and public release of all finalized accreditation documents related to academic and institutional quality.

Additional information, as well as performance data by accreditor may be viewed here:  http://www.ed.gov/accreditation.

 

House Elects New Speaker, Passes Budget Deal 

October 29, 2015 –Representative Paul Ryan (R-WI) has been elected as Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives. Yesterday, the House Republican Conference formally selected Ryan as their nominee, setting up today's floor vote. The former Vice Presidential Candidate and Ways and Means Committee Chairman is now the 62nd Speaker of the House, taking over for outgoing Speaker John Boehner (R-OH).

Last evening the House passed a bill that raises current budgetary caps and suspends the debt limit by a vote of 266 – 167. Under the bill spending caps for defense and nondefense discretionary spending will be increased equally by $25 billion for FY 2016 and $15 billion for FY 2017. Additionally, The debt ceiling will be suspended through March 15, 2017.  Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has filed cloture on the budget bill setting up a Senate vote for passage on Sunday or Monday. It will then be up to the House and Senate Appropriations Committees to determine new subcommittee allocations under the new caps. Once those levels are set the committees will put together an omnibus appropriations bill for FY 2016. Current FY 2016 funding expires on December 11th. 

Included in the budget deal is a provision impacting student debt collections. Presently, servicers of federal student loans are prevented from auto dialing borrowers' cell phones regarding money owed. The provision would lift that ban. 

 

House and Senate Reach Deal over Budget and Debt Limit

October 27, 2015 - Congressional leaders and the White House have reached a bipartisan budget deal over budgetary caps and the debt limit. Under the deal spending caps for discretionary defense and nondefense funding will be increased for fiscal years (FY) 2016 and 2017.  Defense and nondefense discretionary spending will be increased equally by $25 million for FY 2016 and $15 million for FY 2017. Additionally, The debt ceiling will be suspended through March 15, 2017.  The agreement includes a number of offsets including revenue from oil sales from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve, agriculture subsidies, and changes to Medicare and Social Security disability insurance. Additionally, sequester cuts for mandatory spending will be extended for an another year (through FY 2025). The House is expected to vote on this package as early as tomorrow. If the agreement passes into law, then the Appropriations Committee will have to set new 302(b) subcommittee allocations.  Then each appropriations subcommittee will have to develop their individual portions of a FY 2016 omnibus appropriations bill under the new allocations. Current funding for FY 2016 expires on December 11th.

The U.S. Department of Education has released its final regulations on cash management, clock-to-credit-hour conversion, and repeat coursework, as well as Revised Pay As Your Earn (REPAYE): http://www2.ed.gov/policy/highered/reg/hearulemaking/2012/programintegrity.html. The cash management regulations address the distribution of Title IV aid through campus debit cards or bank accounts, as well as other financial products that are marketed to students. REPAYE creates a new income driven repayment plan for federal student loan borrowers not currently eligible for Pay As You Earn. Additionally, the REPAYE regulations address the circumstances under which an institution may challenge or appeal a draft or official cohort default rate calculation based on the institution's participation rate index (PRI). The regulations will go into place next fall. ACCT will provide a more detailed analysis of these regulations in the next Capitol Connection e-newsletter.

Today, the House Subcommittee on Early Childhood, Elementary, and Secondary Education held a hearing entitled, "Improving Career and Technical Education to Help Students Succeed in the Workforce." The hearing examined issues related to the upcoming reauthorization of the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act, and witnesses included Deneece Huftalin, President of Salt Lake Community College. Hearing testimony, as well as an archived webcast of the hearing may be viewed here:  http://edworkforce.house.gov/calendar/eventsingle.aspx?EventID=399578.

 

House to Hold Hearing on Perkins CTE Reauthorization

October 26, 2015 - Tomorrow at 10 am the House Committee on Education and the Workforce will hold a hearing on the reauthorization of the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act. The hearing will examine goals of the reauthorization, as well as student success. There will be a live webcast of the hearing, which may be viewed here: http://1.usa.gov/1GigRXp.

A number of important deadlines are fast approaching for Congress. The Department of Treasury has stated that in order to continue paying bills in time Congress must act on the debt limit by November 3rd.  Presently, there are no planned votes in either chamber on the debt limit. The House and Senate may opt to pair spending cuts or reforms to an extension bill, however the White House has threatened to veto any extension that includes spending cuts. It is unclear if either chamber has enough votes to pass a 'clean' extension. If nothing is done by November 3rd the United States will encounter delayed payments for government activities, and likely default on outstanding financial obligations.  In addition to the vote on the debt limit, Congress will soon have to address federal spending with the current fiscal year 2016 continuing resolution expiring on December 11th. Potentially complicating matters is an impending expiration of the National Highway Trust Fund, as well as a number of tax provisions that will expire at the end of the calendar year.

Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR) will soon be introducing a bill called the "Promoting Access and Retention Through New Efforts to Require Shared Higher Investments in Postsecondary Success Act." The bill encompasses a large federal investment for states to support public institutions of higher education. States who opt-in would be required to develop strategies to support completion for low-income students, hold down tuition costs, and invest in public colleges and universities.  Additionally, the bill includes a number of higher education tax provisions, including increasing refundability and permanently extending the American Opportunity Tax Credit, and doubling the amount of eligible tax-free employer educational assistance. 

 

Senate Clears Hurdle to Vote on Short-Term Funding Bill

September 29, 2015 – Yesterday, the Senate voted to limit debate on a short-term continuing resolution (CR) that would keep the government funded till December 11th. By invoking cloture the Senate will proceed with 30 hours of debate on the bill before final passage. The bill is a 'clean' CR that would keep funding levels the same as they are presently. The CR is expected to garner enough bipartisan support to pass the Senate either tonight or tomorrow morning. Then the House will consider the measure where it's also expected to pass before the expiration of the fiscal year. 

 

On Friday, House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) announced that he will be resigning at the end of October. Therefore, the House Republican Conference will have to choose a new leader in the coming weeks.  The field of individuals seeking leadership positions has already begun to come together.  Current Majority Leader, and former community college trustee Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) has announced his intention to seek the Speakership. Thus far, the only challenger to the current Majority Leader is  Florida Congressman Daniel Webster (R). The race to replace McCarthy as Majority Leader will likely be more contentious with House Majority Whip Steve Scalise (R-LA) and Budget Committee Chairman Tom Price (R-GA) both vying for the job. However, additional contenders may still enter both races. A date is not yet scheduled for the leadership elections.

 

Institutions have just three more days to apply to participate in the Department of Education experimental sites initiative to provide Federal Pell Grant funding to otherwise eligible students who are incarcerated in Federal or State penal institutions. Additional information on this initiative and application may be viewed here:  http://1.usa.gov/1LZwMcP.

 

Speaker Boehner to Resign at the End of October

September 25, 2015 – In a Republican party meeting this morning it was announced that House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) intends to resign from Congress at the end of October. The announcement comes as a surprise despite a contentious relationships with some members of his party.  While current Majority Leader, and former community college trustee, Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) is next in line based on seniority it is unclear at this point who will next step into the role as Speaker of the House.

 

Update on Senate Action and Potential Government Shutdown

September 24, 2015 – With six days remaining till the end of the fiscal year the Senate just voted down a short-term continuing resolution (CR) to keep the government funded beyond September 30th. However, this bill was not expected pass since it also included language to de-fund Planned Parenthood. With that bill being blocked from moving forward, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) is expected to file cloture on a motion later today to take up a 'clean' CR. Under Senate rules there then must be two legislative days between when the motion is filed and the chamber votes. Hence, a vote will likely come early next week. The bill is expected to pass and then be sent over to the House for consideration. There are several members of the House who have strong objections to passing a funding bill that includes support for Planned Parenthood. It is unclear at this point whether the House will be able to pass the Senate bill before the end of the fiscal year. If Congress fails to pass a stop-gap funding measure by midnight on Wednesday, the government will shut down. 

 

Many Community Colleges Excluded from Newly Released College Scorecard

September 16, 2015 – With the recent release of the College Scorecard, ACCT public policy staff continues to review the various components of this new consumer information tool. One area of concern is that institutions that award more diplomas and certificates than associate's degrees were left off the Scorecard, regardless of their sector or degree-granting status. This resulted in the Scorecard excluding 154 degree-granting public two-year institutions – 16.5 percent of all degree-granting community colleges. Some of the largest community colleges in the country were excluded from the Scorecard. It's notable that the 16 colleges that make up the Kentucky Community & Technical College System have been entirely excluded from the Scorecard.  Hence students using the Scorecard to gather information about associates degree programs in Kentucky are largely only able to view proprietary institutions (and one private institutions on heightened cash monitoring).

ACCT has shared these concerns with the Administration, as well as the following:

Community colleges are open-access institutions that serve multiple missions, including skill-building, career training, and transfer to four-year institutions, and the exclusion of these institutions in a consumer tool undermines these missions and casts a negative light on any outcome that is not earning an associate's degree.  The designation of "primarily certificate" for the colleges excluded from the Scorecard calls into question whether those individuals involved in the design of the Scorecard truly understand the multiple missions of our community colleges or the value of credentials other than degrees. The Scorecard is also missing data on transfer, a key outcome for many community college students. For the colleges that are included, the outcomes of their students are grossly misrepresented due to the exclusion of these data and the Scorecard's reliance on federally-aided students. Due to the low-cost nature of many community colleges and the substantial aid programs offered in some states, the data on which the Scorecard figures are based represent, in some cases, less than 10 percent of all students enrolled at the institution – hardly enough to derive a meaningful conclusion on institutional performance.

ACCT will continue to work with the Administration regarding these issues and improving the utility of the College Scorecard for prospective students. 

White House Releases College Scorecard and Announces Changes for FAFSA

September 14, 2015 – This weekend the White House in conjunction with the Department of Education released its College Scorecard, and announced upcoming changes to the FAFSA. The College Scorecard, which is the product of President Obama's proposed Postsecondary Institution Ratings System (PIRS), provides prospective students with a consumer information tool to gather information and compare institutions of higher education. Information found on the site (https://collegescorecard.ed.gov/) includes graduation rates, net price, earnings, and federal loan repayment rates. ACCT will be providing feedback to the Department of Education outlining some concerns with the metrics. Some of these concerns include:

  • Only 780 public two-year institutions are listed on the Scorecard. IPEDS includes 934 Title IV participating, degree-granting public two year institutions. It is unclear why these institutions were not included in the Scorecard, as underlying data exist for them.
  • The Scorecard relies on data on Title IV aid recipients, and the use of Title IV aid is significantly impacted by state and local policies. For example, community college students in California infrequently use federal student aid programs due to generous state aid programs, which means the California community colleges that do appear on the Scorecard are represented by data that is representative of a tiny proportion of borrowers or Pell Grant recipients at the institution.
  • Furthermore, when community college students do receive Title IV aid, it is disproportionately Pell Grant funding. This means that the metrics on the Scorecard for community colleges overwhelmingly represent low-income students, who are more likely to not complete a credential, to earn a lower income post-enrollment, and to fail to repay their loans on time.

The limitations of the data reaffirm the need to establish a federal student unit record system to better track outcomes of community college students. The Department also released a large amount of data on institutions that may be downloaded here:  https://collegescorecard.ed.gov/data/. We encourage institutions to review their data. Questions for the Department about the Scorecard may be sent here:  CollegeScorecard@rti.org.

In conjunction with the release of the College Scorecard, the Administration announced use of Prior-Prior Year tax information for the FAFSA starting in October of next year. This means that students will be able to submit a FAFSA earlier, and more FAFSA filers will be able to use the IRS data retrieval tool. Presently, students and families are often unable import their tax information into the FAFSA because their prior year tax information is unavailable.  This change will make it easier for students and families to file a FAFSA. A fact sheet on the FAFSA changes may be viewed here: https://studentaid.ed.gov/sa/sites/default/files/fafsa-changes-17-18.pdf.

The President will be in Iowa at 4:40 PM this afternoon to discuss these proposals. A webcast of that event may be accessed here:  https://www.whitehouse.gov/live.

 

College Promise Campaign Kicks off in Michigan

September 9, 2015 – This afternoon, President Obama and Dr. Jill Biden will announce from Macomb Community College in Michigan the launch of the College Promise Campaign.  Watch the President live at 3 PM via:  www.whitehouse.gov/live.

The College Promise Campaign is a national, nonpartisan, local and state-led higher education initiative aimed at raising awareness and support for universal community college education for responsible students. It will focus on the best practices and the various programs that partake in the tuition- and debt-free movement. It also aims to increase public understanding and support for investing in universal community college. 

The Campaign is organized by an independent National Advisory Board led by Honorary Chair Dr. Jill Biden and Honorary Vice Chair former Wyoming Gov. Jim Geringer and is directed by former Under Secretary of Education Martha Kanter.  ACCT President and CEO J. Noah Brown is a member of the Advisory Board.  The full roster of Advisory Board members is available at http://collegepromise.org.

ACCT, in conjunction with AACC, has developed a toolkit to help community college leaders participate in the campaign.  The toolkit includes talking points for public comment, talking points for advocacy, a sample resolution in support of America's College Promise, sample press release and op-ed, social media information, and an overview and frequently asked questions about the College Promise Campaign.  The toolkit is available online at: http://bit.ly/1EOF8Dy.

In concurrence with the College Promise Campaign, community college leaders can sign up to be official partners of Heads Up America. Heads Up America is a grassroots movement designed to give students, faculty, business leaders, elected officials, families, and friends the tools they need to spread the word about the value and impact of community colleges on the future of America. Additional information on Heads Up may be viewed here: http://headsupamerica.us/.

The White House also released a report entitled, "America's College Promise: A Progress Report on Free Community College," which may be viewed here:  http://bit.ly/1LXvXjT.

The President will also be highlighting the $175 million American Apprenticeship Grant. The Department of Labor has announced 46 recipients of these funds to support public-private partnerships to help train and hire apprentices in high demand fields.  The list of grantees may be viewed here: http://1.usa.gov/1g9H9OM.

A fact sheet on all of today's announcements may be viewed here:  http://1.usa.gov/1NifXdH.

 

Senate Holds Hearing on Student Success

August 6, 2015 – Yesterday, the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) held a hearing entitled, “Reauthorizing the Higher Education Act: Opportunities to Improve Student Success.” The hearing focused on barriers students face in completing their degree or certificate, as well as policy changes that could support stronger outcomes. This included supporting stronger pathways and support services for students, as well as implementing tighter restrictions for recipients of federal student aid. R. Scott Ralls, President of the North Carolina Community College System testified at the hearing. Witness testimony, as well as an archived webcast of the hearing may be viewed here:  http://1.usa.gov/1gpSZVY.

The Department of Education has announced a pilot program to offer Pell Grants for individuals who are currently incarcerated. The Second Chance Pell Pilot program will provide a limited number of institutions the opportunity to provide Federal Pell Grant funding to otherwise eligible students who are incarcerated. Those interested in participating must submit their application by September 30th. Further details on the pilot, as well as information on applying may be viewed here:  http://1.usa.gov/1I7aHX6.

 

Bipartisan HEA Bills Introduced in the House

July 28, 2015 – Several members of the House Committee on Education and the Workforce have introduced four bipartisan bills addressing reforms to the Higher Education Act. The first bill H.R. 3177, the Simplifying the Application for Student Aid Act would allow students and families to use prior-prior year income information when filling out the FAFSA. H.R. 3180, the Flexible Pell Grant for 21st Century Students Act would provide qualified students access to an additional Pell Grant disbursement, or a summer Pell Grant award. H.R. 3179, the Empowering Students though Enhanced Financial Counseling Act is aimed at improving financial literacy for recipients of federal financial aid. Finally, H.R. 3178, the Strengthening Transparency in Higher Education Act, is a consumer-driven bill designed to improve the information available for prospective students and families. Additional details on the bills may be viewed here:  http://1.usa.gov/1DCQiFe.

Tomorrow at 9 AM, the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions will be holding a hearing entitled, "Reauthorizing the Higher Education Act: Combating Campus Sexual Assault." Additional information on the hearing, as well as access to a live webcast, may be viewed here: http://1.usa.gov/1D5taVt.

 

Senate HELP Committee to Hold HEA Innovation Hearing

July 21, 2015 – Tomorrow morning at 10 am the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions will hold a hearing entitled, "Reauthorizing the Higher Education Act:  Exploring Barriers and Opportunities within Innovation." The hearing is expected to examine alternative models in higher education, such as competency based education, and how the Higher Education Act can better support innovation. Additional information on the hearing, as well as a live webcast may be accessed here: http://1.usa.gov/1V7MAi2.

The Senate Committee on Finance is working on bill to extend expiring tax provisions. The bill, which is set to be marked up today, includes provisions to extend qualified zone academy bonds, as well as the above-the-line deduction for qualified tuition and fees.

  

America's College Promise Bills Introduced in the House and Senate

July 8, 2015 – Today, Senator Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) and Congressman Bobby Scott (D-VA) announced they will introduce legislation in the House and Senate on the Administration’s America’s College Promise proposal. The bills, which have been endorsed by ACCT, are largely similar to the President’s initial proposal at a cost of $80 billion over 10 years. ACCT has created a fact sheet on the America’s College Promise Act of 2015, which may be viewed here: http://bit.ly/1CpCOSj.

ACCT encourages community college leaders to support these bills, and contact their Members of Congress requesting support: http://bit.ly/1JPw9U8.

Additionally, ACCT has sent the following letters of support to both Senator Baldwin and Ranking Member Scott: http://bit.ly/1Hhj3Ib.

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The U.S. Department of Education will soon release a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) for a new income-driven repayment plan, Revised Pay As You Earn (REPAYE). The proposed rules also expand the circumstances under which an institution may challenge or appeal a draft or official cohort default rate calculation based on the institution’s participation rate index (PRI), make it easier for FFEL loan holders to identify borrowers’ active duty military status, clarify guaranty agencies’ responsibilities related to loan rehabilitation and active duty servicemembers’ interest rates, and extend the definition of “qualifying payments” for the PSLF program to included Department of Defense lump payments. The NPRM will soon be available via the federal register.  Comments are due 30 days after the NPRM is published. ACCT has prepared the following fact sheet based on an embargoed copy of the NPRM: http://bit.ly/1Cp4JBB.

 

ACTION ALERT: Tell Congress to Oppose Cuts to Pell Grants

June 25, 2015 - Both the House and Senate are currently moving forward with bills that would include significant cuts to the Pell Grant program. This morning, the Senate will markup its FY 2016 Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education appropriations bill. The bill includes numerous cuts to higher education, including a $300 million rescission of Pell Grant funding. The bill also reduces funding for SEOG, Federal Work Study, Adult Basic Education, grants under the Workforce Investment and Opportunity Act, and Minority Serving Institutions.

While the House bill does not encompass the scope of higher education funding cuts seen by the Senate bill, it does include a $370 million cut to the Pell Grant program. This cuts into the Pell Grant surplus, and would likely lead to a shortfall for the program in FY 2017.

We are requesting your help in contacting both the House and Senate to oppose these cuts.

Letter to oppose the Senate's bill: http://action.acct.org/18080/oppose-senates-labor-hhs-education-funding-bill/

Letter to oppose the House's bill: http://action.acct.org/18079/oppose-houses-labor-hhs-education-funding-bill/

 

Senate LHHS-ED Bill Includes Numerous Cuts to Higher Ed

June 23, 2015 – This afternoon the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education marked up its fiscal year (FY) 2016 funding bill. While the subcommittee only provided a summary of the bill, seen here, ACCT has obtained details regarding several programmatic funding levels.

Cuts to the Department of Education exceed $1 billion. This includes:

* $300 million rescission of Pell Grant funding for FY 2015.
* $29 million cut to Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grants
* $40 million cut to Federal Work Study
* Adult Basic Education (ABE) State Grants are reduced by $29 million
* ABE national leadership is cut by $6 million
* Funding to support Perkins Career and Technical Education research is reduced by $3 million
* CTE state grants are level funded
* Funding for all programs supporting Minority Serving Institutions is reduced by 3 percent
* Competitive grants under the First in the World program are eliminated
* Child Care Access Means Parents in School is also eliminated under this bill
* TRIO and Gear Up receive level funding

The bill is expected to be marked up in full committee on Thursday.

 

Additional Details Released on House Education Funding Bill

June 23, 2015 – This morning the House Appropriations Committee released draft report language for the fiscal year (FY) 2016 Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education (LHHS-ED) appropriations bill. The bill was passed out of subcommittee last week by a party line vote, and is schedule for markup in full committee tomorrow. The release of the report language provides greater details on programmatic funding levels.

When the bill was marked up last week, it was disclosed that discretionary funding for the Pell Grant program were reduced by $370 million. This cuts into the Pell Grant surplus, and would likely lead to a shortfall for the program in FY 2017.

Funding for WIOA adult, dislocated worker, and youth is level funded from FY 2015, however the WIOA Dislocated Worker National Reserve is reduced by $146.9 million – a 50% reduction. Funding for Perkins Career and Technical Education and Adult Basic and Literacy Education State Grants is level to current FY 2015 funding, however the bill cuts funding for CTE research and Adult Education National Leadership Activities by a total of $7 million. Funding for Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grants (SEOG) and Federal Work Study remain level to that of FY 2015. Competitive grants under the First in the World program are eliminated under this bill.

There are funding increases included in the bill as well. TRIO and Gear Up receive increases of $60 million and $21 million respectively. Strengthening Institutions, Title III (A) receives a $1.6 million increase. Funding is increased for all programs supporting Minority Serving Institutions, and HBCUs, including a $2 million increase for Hispanic Serving Institutions.

Additionally, there are a number of higher education policy riders included in the bill, such as blocking the Department of Education from moving forward with its Postsecondary Institution Ratings System, as well as regulations for Gainful Employment, state authorizations, teacher preparation, and defining credit hour.

The LHHS-ED draft report may be viewed here:  http://appropriations.house.gov/uploadedfiles/hrpt-114-hr-fy2016-laborhhsed.pdf. Additionally, the live webcast of tomorrow's markup at 10:15 a.m. may be viewed here: http://appropriations.house.gov/calendar/eventsingle.aspx?EventID=394283.

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This afternoon, at 3 p.m. the Senate LHHS-ED Appropriations Subcommittee will be marking up its version of the FY 2016 funding bill. ACCT will provide additional details on that proposal as they become available. An audio webcast of the markup will be available on the Senate Appropriations Committee's webpage:  http://www.appropriations.senate.gov/.

 

House Passes LHHS-ED Funding Bill Out of Subcommittee

June 18, 2015 - Yesterday, the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education (LHHS-ED) marked up its fiscal year (FY) 2016 funding bill. The bill passed out of subcommittee on a party line vote. Most programmatic funding levels will not be made public until the report language is released. The report language is released one day prior to the full committee markup of the bill. That markup is expected to occur next Thursday. Thus far, we do know that discretionary funding for the Pell Grant program has been reduced by $370 million. This cuts into the Pell Grant surplus, and would likely lead to a shortfall for the program in FY 2017. Additionally, there are a number of higher education policy riders included in the bill, such as blocking the Department of Education from moving forward with its Postsecondary Institution Ratings System, as well as regulations for Gainful Employment, state authorizations, teacher preparation, and defining credit hour. The Senate LHHS-ED Subcommittee is expected to markup its bill next Tuesday.

Yesterday, the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions held a holding a hearing entitled, "Reauthorizing the Higher Education Act: Evaluating Accreditation's Role in Ensuring Quality." The hearing included a myriad of viewpoints on how to reform the current accreditation system, ranging from the accreditor's role in compliance to delinking accreditation from Title IV eligibility. Additional information, and a archived webcast of the hearing may be viewed here: http://1.usa.gov/1JP5Mgw.

ACCT in conjunction with AACC provided comments to the Department of Labor and Department of Education on the recent notice of proposed rulemaking on the implementation of the Workforce Opportunity and Innovation Act. Those comments may be viewed here: http://bit.ly/1J5Xv88.

 

House to Markup LHHS-ED Bill Tomorrow

June 16, 2015 – Tomorrow morning the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education will be marking up its fiscal year (FY) 2016 funding bill. While details regarding funding for several programs are still forthcoming, overall funding for the Department of Education has been cut by $2.8 billion from current funding levels. $370 million of this reduction comes from the Pell Grant program. This cut would reduce the current surplus for the program, and potentially lead to a shortfall for the program in FY 2017. ACCT will be sending out an action alert when the full scope of the cuts becomes available. 

The LHHS-ED bill also includes a number of policy riders impacting higher education. The bill would block the Department of Education from moving forward with its Postsecondary Institution Ratings System, as well as regulations for Gainful Employment, state authorizations, teacher preparation, and defining credit hour. Additional details on the bill may be viewed here: http://1.usa.gov/1JWnZaB.

Tomorrow morning at 10 a.m. the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions will be holding a hearing entitled, “Reauthorizing the Higher Education Act: Evaluating Accreditation's Role in Ensuring Quality.” Additional information, and a live stream of the hearing may be viewed here: http://1.usa.gov/1JP5Mgw.

 

Senate HELP Committee Holds Hearing on College Affordability

June 4, 2015 – Yesterday, the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions held a hearing entitled, "Reauthorizing the Higher Education Act: Ensuring College Affordability."  The panel was comprised of witnesses that discussed issues ranging from state disinvestment in higher education to growing levels of student debt. An archived webcast of the hearing, as well as witness testimony may be viewed here:  http://1.usa.gov/1KAX9GL.  The next Senate HEA reauthorization hearing is expected to be held on June 17th. 

 

Dept. of Ed Issues Guidance on Ability to Benefit Students

May 28, 2015 – The Department of Education (ED) has released a Dear Colleague clarifying changes for students who receive Title IV aid under Ability to Benefit. Within the FY 2015 omnibus appropriations bill Congress partially reinstated access to Title IV aid, including Pell Grants for qualified Ability to Benefit students enrolled in career pathways programs. After the appropriations bill was signed into law ED requested time to issue further guidance on how institutions should determine eligibility and distribute funding. That guidance may be viewed here: http://www.ifap.ed.gov/dpcletters/GEN1509.html.

The Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions has announced a hearing for 10 am on June 3rd entitled, "Reauthorizing the Higher Education Act:  Ensuring College Affordability." Additional information regarding the hearing will be posted here:  http://1.usa.gov/1KAX9GL.

Additionally, the Department of Education has issued a list of all Campus Based Aid awards for the 2015-2016 academic year, which may be viewed here:  http://www.ifap.ed.gov/cbawards/1516CBAwards.html.

 

Senate Releases Subcommittee Funding Allocations for FY 2016

May 21, 2015 – Today the Senate Appropriations Committee approved its subcommittee, or 302 (b) allocations for FY 2016. The overall allocation for Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education is $153.188 billion. This number is slightly above the House’s allocation, but represents a $3.6 billion reduction from FY 2015. It will ultimately be up to the committee on how to distribute those cuts among agencies and programs.

Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee Chairman Lamar Alexander (R-TN), and Ranking Member Patty Murray (D-WA) have announced the formation of several bipartisan, full committee staff working groups to address issues related to the reauthorization of the Higher Education Act. The staff working groups will examine the following topics: Accountability; Accreditation; College Affordability and Financial Aid; and Campus Sexual Assault and Safety. The announcement may be viewed here:  http://1.usa.gov/1ej19hA.

Yesterday, the Senate HELP Committee held a hearing examining institutional risk-sharing. This proposal would increase institutional liability for students who fail to repay their federal student loans; such as instituting a financial penalty based on defaults. ACCT's joint comments on risk-sharing may be viewed here:  http://bit.ly/1bLU4VO. Additional information on the hearing, as well as an archived video may be viewed here: http://1.usa.gov/1FgjKVC.

 

ED Releases NPRM for Cash Management 

Mary 15, 2015 – This morning the Department of Education released an electronic version of a notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM) for cash management, clock-to-credit-hour conversion, and repeat coursework. Last spring, the Department convened a negotiated rulemaking committee on Program Integrity and Improvement that examined these issues, but failed to meet consensus. The cash management regulations address the distribution of Title IV aid through campus debit cards or bank accounts, as well as other financial products that are marketed to students.  Some of the areas addressed in the NPRM include mitigating fees incurred by student aid recipients, and requiring additional disclosure regarding arrangements institutions of higher education may have with financial institutions. The full NPRM may be viewed here:  https://s3.amazonaws.com/public-inspection.federalregister.gov/2015-11917.pdf.

 

Federal Direct Loan Interest Rates Set for Academic Year 2015 - 2016

May 14, 2015 – Interest rates on federal student loans will be decreasing for the upcoming school year. Those rates were determined yesterday based on the auction of the 10-year Treasury note. Federal Stafford undergraduate loan interest rates will be 4.29% for academic year (AY) 2015 – 2016, a 0.37% reduction. Additionally, for AY 2015 – 2016 graduate Stafford loan interest rates will be 5.84% and PLUS loan interest rates for graduate students and parents will be 6.84%.

On Wednesday, May 20th at 10 a.m., the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) will be holding a hearing exploring institutional risk-sharing. HELP Committee Chairman Lamar Alexander (R-TN) released a white paper on risk sharing in March:  http://1.usa.gov/19hXpKd. This is an important topic for community colleges, and ACCT's joint comments on the white paper may be viewed here:  http://bit.ly/1bLU4VO. Additional information on the hearing will be posted here, as it becomes available: http://1.usa.gov/1FgjKVC.

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau is seeking public comment on loan servicing, focusing on potential options to improve borrower service, reduce defaults, develop best practices, assess consumer protections, and spur innovation. Additional details may be viewed here: http://1.usa.gov/1AZ6JKL.

Yesterday, the Department of Education put out a Federal Register notice requesting comments on a forthcoming Gainful Employment recent graduates employment and earning survey. The survey is intended to be a pilot test and is required under the final Gainful Employment regulations which came out in October of last year. Additional information, as well as instructions on comments may be viewed here:  http://1.usa.gov/1cAfoxk.

 

White House to Hold Call Tomorrow on America's College Promise

May 6, 2015 – The White House Office of Public Engagement has sent the following invitation for interested parties to participate on a call regarding President Obama's America's College Promise proposal.

Community College Leaders –

You are invited to join a call with Deputy Director of the White House Domestic Policy Council James Kvaal and Associate Director of the White House Office of Public Engagement for Education Kyle Lierman this Thursday May 7th at 3:00 PM Eastern in advance of President Obama's Commencement address at Lake Area Technical Institute in South Dakota on Friday.

On the call we will discuss the President's remarks, and his America's College Promise proposal to make community college free for responsible students.

To RSVP please click here: http://ems6.intellor.com?p=600624&do=register&t=1

We hope you will join us for this important call.

In addition, we would encourage you to participate in the conversation on community college in the lead up to the President's speech:

Please note that this call is off the record and not for press purposes.

Best,

Katharine Gallogly

White House Office of Public Engagement

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In other news, yesterday the Senate passed the FY 2016 Budget Conference Agreement by a vote of 51 to 48. The House passed the bill last week. The budget conference agreement maintains the caps for nondefense discretionary funding set by the Budget Control Act of 2011. Compared to the FY 2015 omnibus passed in December, the FY 2016 budget agreement provides a $1.1 billion increase for nondefense discretionary funding. However, beyond FY 2016, the budget proposes a cumulative reduction of $496 billion for nondefense discretionary funding for FY 2017 through FY 2025.

 

Community Colleges Comment on HEA White Papers

April 27, 2015 – In March, Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee Chairman Lamar Alexander (R-TN) released three white papers on topics related to the reauthorization of the Higher Education Act (HEA). The three papers were on accreditation, risk sharing, and data collection and consumer information, and may be viewed here:  http://1.usa.gov/19MZ63o. The risk sharing paper explores holding institutions responsible for student success, debt, and default by instituting a financial stake for institutions.  The accreditation paper discusses the effectiveness of using accreditation to determine federal Title IV eligibility, as well as providing new avenues for innovative educational models to gain accreditation. The consumer information paper takes a general look at current federal data requirements, and how to improve upon data elements and make them usable for consumers.  The committee asked that interested parties provide feedback on the papers by April 24th.

ACCT has submitted the following comments on the white papers in conjunction with AACC.

* Risk Sharing - http://bit.ly/1bLU4VO

* Accreditation - http://bit.ly/1Ex3L5c

* Data Collection and Consumer Information - http://bit.ly/1Jvoppn

 

House Announces Subcomittee Funding Allocations for FY 2016

April 22, 2015 – Today, the House Appropriations Committee approved its subcommittee, or 302 (b) allocations for FY 2016. The overall allocation for Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education is $135.05 billion, which represents a $3.713 billion reduction from FY 2015. While the committee has authority over how to divide those cuts, if spread equally across agencies it represents a $1.6 billion cut for education. The Senate has yet to announce its 302 (b) allocations, and both chambers will ultimately have to agree to a final number.

The Department of Education has released webinar information for institutions of higher education, non-profit organizations, and others interested in applying for a 2015 First In The World grant. The Department is expected to host additional webinars once the Notice Inviting Applications is posted in the Federal Register.

On Wednesday, April 29th, the New America Foundation will be hosting a briefing associated with their Community College Online report.  Additional information on the event and report may be viewed here:  http://bit.ly/1aRWK2J.

 

Senate Passes FY 2016 Budget Resolution

March 27, 2015 – Early this morning the Senate passed its FY 2016 budget resolution by a vote of 52 – 46. Numerous amendments were offered during the debate, including several higher education proposals. The budgetary amendments establishing deficit neutral reserve funds are non-binding, and only a represent a policy priority in the budget committee's plan. Additional legislative action by the Senate Appropriations Committee or the Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions would be required to enact these policy recommendations.

Senator Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) offered an amendment to create a deficit neutral reserve fund to support two free years of community college. The offset used for this amendment was the so-called "Buffett Rule," which would increase taxes on some individuals who earn over $1 million. The amendment failed by a vote of 45 – 55. Senator Susan Collins (R-ME) offered an amendment to establish a deficit neutral reserve fund to support establishing a year-round Pell Grant. The amendment passed by voice vote, and signifies strong bipartisan support for this policy change. Senator Al Franken (D-MN) offered an amendment opposing the elimination of $89 billion in mandatory funding for the Pell Grant program. That amendment failed by a vote of 46 – 54. Additionally, Senator Wyden (D-OR) offered an amendment to establish a deficit neutral reserve fund to expand and extend certain tax credits, including the American Opportunity Tax Credit. That amendment passed by a vote of 73 – 27.

The House and Senate are now expected to conference their respective budget resolutions.

 

Senate to Vote on Free Community College Tuition Budget Amendment

March 26, 2015 – Last evening, Senator Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) offered an amendment to the Senate's FY 2016 budget resolution currently under consideration on the Senate floor. A vote is expected in the early afternoon. The amendment would create a deficit neutral reserve fund to support two free years of community college. The offset used for this amendment is the so-called "Buffett Rule," which would increase taxes on some individuals who earn over $1 million. This offset has been used for a number of budget amendments offered by Senate Democrats. The amendment is unlikely to pass due to the partisan nature of the Buffett Rule. If it were enacted the amendment would be non-binding, and only a represent a priority in the budget committee's plan to devote funding to this purpose. Senators Schumer (D-NY), Sanders (I-VT), and Stabenow (D-MI) cosponsored the amendment.

Yesterday, the House passed its FY 2016 budget resolution by a vote of  219 – 208. The budget includes a number of proposed cuts to student aid, including the elimination of $89 billion mandatory funding for the Pell Grant program. It would ultimately be up to the Appropriations Committee whether or not to enact those cuts. The House is expected to conference it's budget resolution with the Senate. A final passage vote on the Senate's budget could occur today.

 

Senate Releases 'White Papers' on HEA Reauthorization

March 24, 2015 – Yesterday, Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee Chairman, Lamar Alexander (R-TN) released three white papers on topics related to the reauthorization of the Higher Education Act (HEA). The three papers are on:

* Accreditation - http://1.usa.gov/1EEugl7

* Risk Sharing - http://1.usa.gov/19hXpKd

* Data Collection and Consumer Information - http://1.usa.gov/1HxBz0P

These papers indicate some priority areas for Senator Alexander in reauthorizing HEA, and offer a preview to what may be seen in a bill released later this year. The risk sharing paper explores holding institutions responsible for student success, debt, and default by instituting a financial stake for institutions.  The accreditation paper discusses the effectiveness of using accreditation to determine federal Title IV eligibility, as well as providing new avenues for innovative educational models to gain accreditation. The consumer information paper takes a general look at current federal data requirements, and how to improve upon data elements and make them usable for consumers.  Interested parties may provide feedback on proposals included in the white papers by April 24th. Details on how to submit comments may be viewed here:  http://1.usa.gov/19MZ63o.

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The House and Senate budget proposals are being considered on the floor this week. The House budget has been voted out of the Rules Committee. Today, the House is debating and voting on the Rule. Tomorrow they are expected to proceed with debate on the budget, as well as several substitute amendments. The final vote is expected to occur tomorrow evening. The Senate has already begun to consider amendments to their budget proposal.  Numerous amendments are expected over the next two days, with a final vote expected late Thursday.

ACCT has sent an action alert opposing proposed cuts to student aid included in both budget proposals. Both proposals call for the elimination of $89 billion in mandatory funding for the Pell Grant program. Additionally, the House proposal would: freeze the current Pell Grant maximum award for the next decade at $5,730; eliminate of in-school interest subsidy for low-income undergraduate Direct Loan borrowers; roll back the expansion of Income Based Repayment; and the eliminate Public Service Loan Forgiveness. Contact your Member of Congress to oppose these student aid cuts via: http://action.acct.org/17599/tell-congress-to-oppose-cuts-to-student-aid/.

 

ACCT Action Alert: Oppose Potential Cuts to Student Aid

March 23, 2015 - This week the House and Senate will consider their FY 2016 budget resolutions. Both proposals call for significant cuts to federal student aid. In particular, the House budget calls for $150 billion in cuts through the elimination of several student aid benefits. Both proposals would eliminate $89 billion in mandatory funds from the Pell Grant program. Additionally, the House proposal would freeze the current Pell Grant maximum award for the next decade at $5,730. The other $61 billion in cuts proposed by the House include: the elimination of in-school interest subsidy for low-income undergraduate Direct Loan borrowers; rolling back the expansion of Income Based Repayment; and the elimination of Public Service Loan Forgiveness.

The House and Senate budget proposals provide the option to use 'fair value' accounting to evaluate the cost of the federal student loan program. In general, fair value accounting estimates the cost of the student loan program by comparing the risks and profitability of loans made by the private sector. This accounting method adds a penalty for risk that only the private market bears, and would add billions to the estimated cost of the federal student loan program without actually changing the amount the government spends or receives. Under existing accounting practices the federal government raises revenue from federal student loans. However, if Congress opts to use fair value accounting the program would then cost to the federal government billions of dollars. These added 'costs' could lead to an increase in interest rates on federal student loans, or a reduction in other forms of aid in order to generate funds. This could be a significant issue impacting the reauthorization of the Higher Education Act as well.

We are asking community college leaders to weigh in with their Members of Congress on these potential cuts and policy changes. To email your Members of Congress, please click here:  http://action.acct.org/17599/tell-congress-to-oppose-cuts-to-student-aid/.

 

Additional Details Emerge on House and Senate Budget Proposals

March 18, 2015 – Today, Congress continued activity on the FY 2016 budget with the release of the Senate Budget Committee's FY 2016 proposal, and markups of both the House and Senate budget resolutions. The Senate resolution and corresponding information released by the committee does not directly address proposed changes to higher education programs. However, more details will likely emerge during the ongoing markup and within the forthcoming report language. Like the House proposal, the Senate resolution provides a mechanism to use 'fair value' accounting to estimate the cost of federal student loans, and calls for the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pension committee to find at least $1 billion in savings via reconciliation. The Senate budget resolution may be viewed here: http://1.usa.gov/1Ewj1O3, and a live webcast of the markup may be viewed here: http://1.usa.gov/1BVZuaj.

During the House budget markup, additional details were disclosed regarding higher education funding.  The House budget proposal released yesterday detailed a plan to freeze the maximum Pell Grant award at current academic year 2014-2015 level of $5,730 for the next 10 years. However, a $180 billion reduction (over ten years) in mandatory budget authority under function 500* (funding for education and workforce training are funded under this function) was not explicitly addressed. At the House markup it was explained that the reduction represents savings from the elimination of mandatory funding for the Pell Grant program, elimination of subsidized Direct Loans, repeal of Pay As Your Earn, and elimination of the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program. It is assumed with the elimination of mandatory funds for the Pell Grant program that all funding would be provided for the discretionary side of the ledger. Passage of the budget does not automatically enact these changes. However, this proposal may be significant for reconciliation, as the Education and Workforce Committee has been instructed to find at least $1 billion in savings.

*For an explanation of Function 500, see http://budget.house.gov/budgetprocess/budgetfunctions.htm#function500.

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Today, the 2015 Aspen Prize for Community College Excellence winner was announced. Santa Fe College (FL) was named the 2015 winner with West Kentucky Community and Technical College (KY) and Lake Area Technical Institute (SD) named as finalists-with-distinction. And Kennedy-King College (IL) was recognized as the first-ever "Rising Star." ACCT's statement congratulating the winner and finalists may be viewed here: http://bit.ly/1AGlVMp.

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Today, the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education held an oversight hearing focused on closing the achievement gap in higher education. Witnesses included Gail Mellow, President of LaGuardia Community College, who discussed the challenges that many community college students face in attaining a degree or certificate, as well as strategies for success. Additional details regarding the hearing as well as an archived webcast may be viewed here: http://appropriations.house.gov/calendar/eventsingle.aspx?EventID=394059.

Additionally, today U.S. Labor Secretary Tom Perez testified in front of the House Education and Workforce Committee on the Department of Labor's FY 2016 budget request. Testimony from Secretary Perez, as well as an archived webcast may be viewed here: http://1.usa.gov/1MxH2WQ

 

House Releases FY 2016 Budget Resolution

March 17, 2015 – Today, the House Committee on the Budget released its FY 2016 budget proposal. For FY 2016 the budget maintains the nondefense discretionary funding caps set by the 2011 Budget Control Act. Overall funding highlights include:

* Compared to FY 2015 omnibus, the FY 2016 proposal provides a $1.1 billion increase for nondefense discretionary funding.

* For FY 2017 through FY 2025 the budget proposes a cumulative reduction of $759 billion for nondefense discretionary funding.

* For FY 2017 through FY 2025 the budget proposes a cumulative increase of $387 billion for defense discretionary funding.

If passed, the budget resolution would be non-binding for fiscal years beyond FY 2016.

For education, the budget proposal targets the Pell Grant program calling for a freeze of the maximum award at current academic year 2014-2015 level of $5,775 for the next 10 years. It also calls for targeting the Pell Grant program to the neediest students in order to promote sustainability. However, it does not specify additional changes to the program beyond freezing the maximum award. It is notable that the budget proposal does not suggest the elimination of mandatory funding for the Pell Grant program, as seen in prior year requests.

The budget proposal gives the chair of the House Budget Committee the option to use 'fair value' accounting to evaluate the cost of the federal student loan program. In general, fair value accounting estimates the cost of the student loan program by comparing the risks and profitability of loans made by the private sector. Currently, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) uses 'credit reform' accounting to estimate the cost of the program. Under the budget proposal, CBO would report the cost of the student loan program providing two estimates – one estimate using fair value and one using credit reform. The chair of the House Budget Committee would then have the authority to apply the fair value estimate to budgetary compliance and enforcement.  Using a credit reform estimate the federal government currently raises revenue from federal student loans. However, if Congress opts to use fair value accounting the program would then cost to the federal government billions of dollars. Details regarding the House budget may be viewed here:  http://budget.house.gov/.

The Senate is expected to release its FY 2016 budget proposal soon. Both budgets are anticipated to be on the House and Senate floor next week.

Today, the House Subcommittee on Higher Education and Workforce Training held a hearing entitled "Strengthening America's Higher Education System." The hearing touched on a number of topics, including the Pell Grant program, simplifying the FAFSA, affordability, and student borrowing. Witness testimony, as well as an archived webcast of the hearing may be viewed here:  http://edworkforce.house.gov/calendar/eventsingle.aspx?EventID=398531.

 

 

President Obama to Announce Executive Actions to Assist Student Borrowers

March 10, 2015 – Today, President Obama will announce a series of executive actions the Administration plans to take to assist students and borrowers. Actions under the 'Student Aid Bill or Rights' include:

* The creation of a new online hub where student borrowers can submit feedback regarding federal financial aid, including complaints about loan servicers, collection agencies, lenders, and colleges and universities.

* Improvement of servicing of Direct Loans by enhancing disclosures and consumer protections, including stronger notifications regarding loan transfers, delinquency, and application status.

* By October 1st, ED and the Department of the Treasury will report on the feasibility of authorizing the IRS to release multiple years of income information to simplify the process for students enrolling in income-driven repayment plans.

* Implementation of a centralized website for student borrowers to manage their federal Direct Loans, and create a pilot program to test new methods for communicating with delinquent borrowers.

* Increased oversight over debt collection in the areas of transparency, fees, and bringing borrowers back into good standing.

A copy of the Presidential Memorandum may be viewed here:  http://www.acct.org/files/Advocacy/Student%20Debt%20PM.pdf.

The President will be speaking live at 1:30 PM EDT on the memorandum:  http://www.whitehouse.gov/live/president-obama-speaks-georgia-tech.

The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) has issued its updated baseline projections for the Pell Grant program, showing a delay in the anticipated shortfall for the program. For the upcoming fiscal year, FY 2016, the program is projected to run a surplus of approximately $2 billion. In FY 2017, the program is also expected to run a small surplus. However, for FY 2018 – 2025 the cumulative shortfall is estimated at $31.8 billion, assuming that funding for the discretionary base award remains level funded. While this is a significant number, it is over $6 billion less than what was estimated last year. Baseline numbers may be viewed here:  http://www.cbo.gov/publication/44199.

The House Committee on Education and the Workforce has announced a hearing at 10 am on March 17th entitled "Strengthening America's Higher Education System." Additional information on the hearing as well as a webcast will be posted here:  http://edworkforce.house.gov/calendar/eventsingle.aspx?EventID=398531.

 

House Holds Hearing on 2016 Education Budget

March 4, 2015 – Today, the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services and Education held a hearing to examine the Department of Education's fiscal year (FY) 2016 budget request. Secretary Arne Duncan testified at the hearing on a number of topics ranging from student aid to career and technical education. Secretary Duncan reemphasized the administration's support for America's College Promise proposal, a $63 billion plan to provide federal support for reduced community college tuition. He also highlighted the proposed $200 million per year American Technical Training Fund. This proposal would serve as a successor to the expired Trade Adjustment Assistance Community College and Career Training Grant (TAACCCT) program, and funds would be used to support college and industry partnerships. An archived webcast of the hearing may be viewed here: http://appropriations.house.gov/calendar/eventsingle.aspx?EventID=394014.

This week, ACCT and other national and state education groups are participating in the #TaxBreaks4Students campaign to encourage students and families to learn about educational tax credits and deductions. Currently, educational tax benefits are vastly underutilized by students and families. The GAO estimates that that 1.5 million tax filers who qualified for either the Tuition and Fees Deduction or the Lifetime Learning Credit did not claim the credit or deduction. Additionally, many students and families who don't owe taxes could still receive a refund of up to $1,000 from the American Opportunity Tax Credit. Additional details regarding the #TaxBreaks4Students campaign may be viewed here: http://davis.house.gov/uploads/FINAL%20flyer%20campaign.pdf.

 

President Obama Releases FY 2016 Budget Request

February 2, 2015 – Today, President Obama released his FY 2016 budget request. The budget included a number of reforms and new proposals for higher education and workforce training. New proposals impacting the community college sector include:

  • $60 billion over 10 years for the America's College Promise proposal; a federal-state partnership grant that would provide free tuition at community colleges for qualified students.
  • $200 million per year American Technical Training Fund. This proposal would serve a successor to the expired Trade Adjustment Assistance Community College and Career Training Grant (TAACCCT) program, and funds will be used to support college and industry partnerships.
  • $7 billion over 10 years for a College Opportunity and Graduation Bonus program which would provide an annual grant to eligible institutions based on their number of on-time graduates that receive Pell Grants.
  • Streamline existing higher education tax credits to create a more robust and permanent American Opportunity Tax Credit (AOTC) with increased refundability, and excluding Pell Grants from taxable income.

For the Pell Grant program, the budget proposes extending the annual consumer price index (CPI) increases to the Pell Grant maximum beyond 2017. The Department of Education (ED) recently revised the maximum award for AY 2015 – 2016 based on the final CPI for 2014. Pell will increase $45, bringing the maximum to $5,775. Additionally, the budget calls for continuing access to a full maximum Pell Grant award for Ability to Benefit students enrolled in career pathway programs. The budget recommends strengthening academic progress requirements for the Pell Grant program in order to encourage completion, and limiting the receipt of additional Pell disbursements by recipients who are not advancing academically.

The proposal calls for extending the Pay As You Earn repayment option to all borrowers. This is something ED is already working on through negotiated rulemaking.  The budget also proposes expanding the existing Perkins Loan program into a new unsubsidized program which would provide $8.5 billion in loans annually. The new program would allocate lending authority among institutions on the basis of the financial need of their students, and the extent to which institutions enroll and graduate higher numbers of Pell eligible students, and offer an affordable and quality education such that graduates can repay their educational debt.

The budget proposes simplifying the FAFSA, and adding the Department of Defense Tuition Assistance program and post-9/11 GI Bill benefits to the 90/10 rule. It also includes $200 million  for the First in the World Fund to invest in innovative strategies and practices that improve educational outcomes and make college more affordable for students and families.

A link to the Department of Education's budget request can be viewed here: http://www2.ed.gov/about/overview/budget/budget16/index.html.

 

SOTU to Include Proposed Changes to Higher Ed Tax Benefits

January 20, 2015 – Tonight, President Obama will address Congress and the nation in his sixth State of the Union address. The President is expected to once again tout his $60 billion America's College Promise proposal; a federal-state partnership grant that would provide free tuition at community colleges for qualified students. Additionally, he will likely promote a new proposal, the Advanced Technical Training Fund, to serve as a successor to the expired Trade Adjustment Assistance Community College and Career Training Grant (TAACCCT) program. Information on both proposals was announced earlier this month, and a fact sheet may be viewed here: http://1.usa.gov/1FzlV8m.

This weekend, the White House announced several new tax proposals to be added to the slate for tonight's State of the Union address. Included in those reforms, is a proposal to overhaul current higher education tax benefits. The plan would consolidate several existing tax credits to create a more robust American Opportunity Tax Credit (AOTC). The proposal appears similar to the Student and Family Tax Simplification Act of 2014, a bill which ACCT supported and helped develop: http://bit.ly/1mwmctk. The plan would increases refundability of AOTC from $1,000 to $1,500 per year, expand eligibility at a lower amount for less than half-time students, and makes it easier for community college students to receive the maximum credit through better coordination with the Pell Grant program. The AOTC is currently set to expire in 2017. The President's plan would make it permanent, and allow eligible students to claim the credit for up to five years. In order to support this expanded AOTC, the plan proposes eliminating the Lifetime Learning Credit and the tuition and fees deduction.

 Additional proposed changes to higher education tax benefits include exempting student loan debt forgiveness under income-based repayment plans from taxation, and repealing the student loan interest deduction for new borrowers. The proposal also consolidates education savings incentives, eliminating the Coverdell education savings program, and retaining 529 education savings plans at a level prior to the 2001 expansion. A fact sheet on the tax proposals may be viewed here:  http://bit.ly/1GdAf6W.

 

President Obama Announces New Community College Proposals

January 9, 2015 – Today, President Obama will be at Pellissippi State Community College in Tennessee to discuss two new proposal aimed at community colleges and students. The first, entitled the America's College Promise proposal, is a federal-state partnership grant that would provide free tuition at community colleges for qualified students. In order to qualify students would have to be enrolled at least half-time and maintain a 2.5 GPA while making progress towards their degree or certificate. The requirements for community colleges are that they offer "1) academic programs that fully transfer credits to local public four-year colleges and universities, or 2) occupational training programs with high graduation rates and lead to in-demand degrees and certificates. Community colleges must also adopt promising and evidence-based institutional reforms to improve student outcomes." While the federal government will cover three-quarters of the cost under this proposal, states will be required to provide some matching funds if they choose to participate. The projected cost is $60 billion over 10 years. ACCT's statement on the proposal may be viewed here:  http://www.acct.org/news/acct-lauds-president-obama%E2%80%99s-support-community-college-students.

The second proposal, entitled the Advanced Technical Training Fund is would be a successor to the expired Trade Adjustment Assistance Community College and Career Training Grant (TAACCCT) program. Funds will be used to support college and industry partnerships that include "work-based learning opportunities, provide accelerated training, and are scheduled to accommodate part-time work." The proposal will fund the creation of 100 programs at community colleges or other training institutions, as well as the expansion of existing programs that have strong outcomes. Both proposals will be included in the President's FY 2016 budget request, and require Congressional approval to be enacted into law.

The President will speak at 1:20 pm  EST on his proposals. His live remarks may be viewed here:  http://www.whitehouse.gov/live

Additionally, the White House has prepared a fact sheet on the proposals: http://1.usa.gov/1FzlV8m.

Join us at the 2015 COMMUNITY COLLEGE NATIONAL LEGISLATIVE SUMMIT (NLS) from February 9 – 12 in Washington, DC. Community colleges remain on the forefront of federal higher education policy discussions in DC. Help us keep that momentum going by joining us at NLS. Your voice is essential to getting federal support for programs that help community colleges and students. Register today: http://www.acct.org/events/2015-national-legislative-summit-0.

 

Chairman Alexander Reintroduces HEA Bill

January 8, 2015 – Yesterday, Senator Alexander (R-TN) was formally elected as the Chairman of the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP). One of his first actions as chairman was to reintroduce legislation related to the reauthorization of the Higher Education Act (HEA). The Financial Aid Simplification and Transparency (FAST) Act would seek to significantly reduce the size of the FAFSA, and streamline federal grant and loan programs. The bill would reinstate year-round Pell, but eliminate the Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant (SEOG) program. The number of student loan options offered by the federal government would also shrink to one undergraduate loan program, one graduate loan program, and one parent loan program. In doing so, subsidized loans offered to low-income students would be eliminated. The bill would also allow tie borrowing limits to enrollment intensity, simplify repayment options, and allow the use of prior-prior year income information on the financial aid application. A summary of the bill may be viewed here: http://1.usa.gov/146AO0t.

It is expected that Chairman Alexander will hold hearings on HEA reauthorization during the first half of this year. Additionally, it is anticipated that the HELP Committee Republicans will begin releasing issue papers on HEA reauthorization topics in the coming months. The committee's goal is to release a comprehensive reauthorization draft by summer, however Chairman Alexander plans to first turn his attention to the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act.

Tomorrow, President Obama will be at Pellissippi State Community College in Tennessee to announce a new higher education policy proposal. ACCT will provide additional details when they become available.

This week, the GAO released a report on state disinvestment in higher education and the impact on intuitions and students: http://www.gao.gov/assets/670/667557.pdf.

 

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