With the Higher Education Act up for reauthorization, lawmakers in D.C. could push through a new bill this month.
The Higher Education Act (HEA) originally became a law in 1965; it was seen as a way to give all Americans greater access to higher education. Currently, about 75 percent of all federal student loans come from HEA programs, according to the Edu Alliance Journal.
The HEA has been reauthorized eight times since its inception, which means that major and minor changes have been made to the bill. And now, the House and the Senate have committed to reauthorizing the HEA for the ninth time in 2018.
In December 2017, House committees introduced an updated version of the HEA, known as the Promoting Real Opportunity, Success, and Prosperity through Education Reform (PROSPER) Act. The bill was introduced by the House Committee on Education and the Workforce Chairwoman Virginia Foxx and the Higher Education and Workforce Development Subcommittee Chairman Brett Guthrie.
The PROSPER Act includes a number of proposed changes. For instance, it seeks to cap the maximum loan amounts for undergraduate and graduate students. It calls to eliminate many of the options for loan repayment, leaving one 10-year repayment plan and one income-based repayment plan.
The bill also aims to eliminate the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program starting July 2019. However, it proposes a $300 Pell Grant bonus for students who take on a higher course load that school year.
Next, the bill will go to the entire House of Representatives for consideration. From there, House members will likely recommend more changes be made to the bill. The House plans to consider the bill as soon as mid-March, the Edu Alliance Journal reported.
The Senate HELP Committee is taking charge of the PROSPER Act and the effort is being led by Republican Chairman Lamar Alexander. At the beginning of February, Sen. Alexander released a white paper that gave an outline of the changes the GOP would like to make in higher education. Senate Democrats countered with their own list of goals for reauthorization.
Over the past several months, the Senate HELP Committee has held a number of hearings on how to simplify the FASFA and make college more affordable.
It remains to be seen whether or not Republicans will accomplish their goals of reauthorizing the HEA in 2018. The House is expected to approve the PROSPER Act in the next couple of months.
But the Senate might not have enough time to get a bill drafted, debated, and sent to the full Senate to vote on prior to midterm elections. And while the HELP committee has a strong history of bipartisan efforts, it is not yet clear whether Senate Democrats and Republicans will be able to work together on this bill.