Higher Ed Policy Roundup

This Week In Washington

Both chambers in Congress are on recess for two weeks, but there is still policy news to share:

On Tuesday, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos withdrew three policy memos issued by the Obama administration that were aimed at strengthening consumer protections for student loan borrowers by outlining a new system for collecting payments from borrowers through a single web portal and imposing customer service standards on student loan servicers. 

In her memo to the Chief Operating Officer for the Office of Federal Student Aid, DeVos said that it was necessary to withdraw the guidance due to a “myriad of moving deadlines, changing requirements and a lack of consistent objectives.” She also cited the need to “negate any impediment, ambiguity or inconsistency” as the Department moved forward with their servicing procurement plans.

On Wednesday, the Office of Management and Budget issued a memo to agency and department heads regarding plans for “reducing the civilian workforce.” The memo provides guidance on how to reorganize and streamline executive agencies in a way that reduces costs to the government. Agencies are asked to submit reorganization plans that include long-term workforce reductions in September as part of their fiscal year 2019 budget submissions.

News You Can Use

According to Law School Admission Council data, the number of LSAT test-takers increased by 3.3 percent in 2016-2017. As of April 7, the number of law school applicants is down 0.7 percent and applications are up 1.1 percent for the 2017-2018 school year.

A survey by Kaplan of nearly 350 recent law school graduates found that 64 percent want law schools to set stricter admission standards. 

Student loan servicer Navient has voluntarily agreed to stop collecting on loans of certain borrowers while a class action lawsuit is pending. Plaintiffs allege that the loans in question were used to attend non-accredited programs and that they have been discharged in bankruptcy. Attorneys are hopeful that the ruling in this case will demonstrate that student loans should be more easily discharged in bankruptcy.

Recent Legislation

The following bills were recently introduced for consideration by the 115th Congress:

H.R. 2015 – Equitable Student Aid Access Act [Rep. Lloyd Doggett (D-TX)] would help students access federal financial aid by simplifying FAFSA.

S. 848 – Reigniting Opportunity for Innovators [Sen. Maggie Hassan (D-NH)] would allow founders and full-time employees of small business start-ups to have their federal student loan payments and interest accrual deferred for up to three years while launching their business.

S. 888 – Understanding the True Cost of College Act [Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA)] would create a universal financial aid award letter so that students can easily compare financial aid packages between schools.

S. 889 – Net Price Calculator Improvement Act [Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA)] would authorize the Department of Education to develop a “universal calculator” so that students can compare costs across institutions and it would require schools to put their net price calculators on webpages where students and families are likely to look for cost and admissions information.