House HEA Proposal Contains Some Innovative, Some Concerning Ideas

December 1, 2017
By Carrie Warick, Director of Policy and Advocacy
 
The National College Access Network is encouraged to see the House of Representatives begin its discussion about the long overdue reauthorization of the Higher Education Act. The bill proposed today includes some innovative ideas, but also contains some concerning proposals. (Read a summary here.)
 
Our students are primarily low-income, students of color, and students who are first in their family to attend college. They are seeking affordable pathways to higher education – whether that be a four-year degree, two-year degree, or high-quality credential. If passed, this bill would create multiple new opportunities for our students: a Pell-bonus for taking 15 credits per semester in an award year, an expansion of the Federal Work-Study program, an increased threshold for the Simplified Needs Test in the FAFSA from $50,000 to $100,000, early awareness of the availability of financial aid, and additional loan-counseling for students. These items all have the potential to increase access and affordability for our students.
 
However, this bill highly prioritizes short-term programs while making significant changes to the financial aid programs that students need to access longer-term degrees. While the former option is appropriate for some students, research shows that underrepresented students are best-served at four-year institutions. Thus, any action to expand apprenticeship or certificate programs should not come at the expense of college affordability. Eliminating all loan forgiveness provisions while also increasing borrowing limits will put students into greater debt.
 
The bill would also disburse financial aid in the form of a paycheck, give financial aid administrators the ability to limit the size of student loans by groups of students, and change how consumer information is shared with students. These changes could be positive or negative for our students, depending on how they are implemented.
 
NCAN will be taking a deep dive into the bill and will keep our members up to date. The NCAN membership looks forward to participating in the ongoing conversation with the House of Representatives and the Senate as they create the next Higher Education Act. Members with feedback about how the bill will impact their students should contact Policy and Advocacy Director Carrie Warick.

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