NAICU Washington Update

Technical HEA Amendments Fix More Than Commas

June 29, 2009

The House and Senate have passed a non-controversial technical amendments bill to last year's new Higher Education Act, resolving a number of student aid issues that were up in the air.  While the bill cleaned up a lot of proofreading kinds of problems, it also contained many more important changes recommended by the Department of Education and the higher education community.

The legislation moved up by one year (from July 1, 2010 to July 1, 2009), the effective date for a new provision ensuring that veterans' benefits will not reduce the amount of federal aid a veteran can receive from the Department of Education.

The bill, which was passed on June 24, also gives the department authority to buy rehabilitated loans which were not being bought in the private market due to the credit crunch.  This new authority solves the problem of borrowers who got their loans out of default, but then were unable to have their credit records updated until their loan was sold.

The legislation clarifies what loan counseling may be provided by guaranty agencies, and affirms that certain GAP (LEAP) and GEAR UP grant funding provisions provided before the effective date of the new Higher Education Act would be honored.  It maintains the experimental sites program which the department wished to end, and clarifies what defines their success.  The bill also clarifies congressional expectations regarding integration of  intellectually disabled and non-disabled students in a new federal program, and establishes that allocation of state funding for incarcerated individuals will be based on their ratio to the state's population.