NCAN Members Urge Further Examination of HEA Proposals

December 6, 2017

By Carrie Warick, Director of Policy and Advocacy 

Last week, House Education and the Workforce Committee Chairwoman Virginia Foxx (R-NC) introduced her bill to reauthorize the Higher Education Act (HEA). The goal of the Promoting Real Opportunity, Success, and Prosperity through Education Reform Act, or PROSPER Act, is to streamline the federal financial aid system, expand the programs eligible to participate in it with a focus on workforce development, and to reduce regulations. 

"NCAN appreciates that the PROSPER Act aims to help our low-income, first-generation students complete college by introducing a Pell Grant bonus and focusing Federal Work-Study funding on institutions with strong outcomes for Pell recipients," Executive Director Kim Cook said. "We look forward to conversations about how to further strengthen that commitment to our students by indexing the Pell Grant to keep pace with inflation and maintaining a loan forgiveness safety net."

To move the needle on college completion requires a focus on the country's low-income students, who currently complete at a rate of only 12%.

NCAN members suggested the PROSPER Act offers an opportunity for discussion about some interesting ideas, and some areas of concern. The Scholarship Foundation of St. Louis and the Florida College Access Network both issued statements of mixed response.

“While there are some provisions in this act we support, such as redistribution of work-study funds, there are others that will take a toll on the students least able to bear it," SFSTL said. "Students supported by the Foundation and St. Louis Graduates rely on income-based repayment options and student loan interest subsidies, and many would not be able to attend college without this critical support from the federal government.”

FCAN said reforms to simplify the FAFSA and streamline federal financial aid programs are welcome, so long as they are research-based and encourage college access, affordability, attainment and economic outcomes for all students, particularly for low-income and first-generation students.

"While some proposals in the PROSPER Act show promise to achieving these ends," the statement reads, "FCAN encourages further examination on those provisions, in particular those related to efforts that reform student loan programs, repayment plans and accountability measures for institutions that fail to demonstrate a commitment to serve the needs of their students." 

In the federal student aid arena, the PROSPER Act moves to a one grant, one loan, and one work-study system, and addresses other topics such as FAFSA simplification, financial aid counseling and consumer information. NCAN has supported a streamlining in the past, but the devil is always in the details.

Streamlining must be accomplished in a way that does not shrink the pie of federal student aid, and it is unclear at this time whether the addition of a Pell Grant bonus and expanded Federal Work-Study program balance the elimination of the Subsidized Stafford Loan, the Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant (SEOG), and the majority of student loan forgiveness through income-driven repayment. On the whole, students must be able to afford college – up to and including four-year degrees - up front and have a safety net when repaying at the end. 

NCAN looks forward to participating in this conversation. For a deeper dive on specific areas of the bill, follow NCAN's blog and Twitter feed this week.

More on the PROSPER Act

Breaking Down the PROSPER Act: "One Grant"

Breaking Down the PROSPER Act: "One Work-Study"

Breaking Down the PROSPER Act: Consumer Information & FAFSA Simplification

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