NAICU Washington Update

Introduction by Barbara K. Mistick

August 26, 2022

Dear Colleagues:

The big news in higher education this week was the long-anticipated announcement by President Biden forgiving student loan debt. The issue has been brewing for years, with progressives pushing him since the 2020 election to forgive up to $50,000 for every student loan borrower, and Biden hedging between his own concerns with large scale debt relief and the political pressure from progressives. 

Biden has spent much of his presidency executing targeted student debt relief, particularly to borrowers who might have been defrauded by for-profit schools or those caught in the red tape of the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program.

This week’s announcement sought to hit a middle ground by providing $10,000 in relief to those making $125,000 ($250,000 for couples) or less, and double that amount for those who received a Pell Grant. Still, the announcement is not likely to be enough for progressives, and anger those who believe students who chose to borrow should not get a benefit that is not available to those who did not borrow, have already paid back their loans or didn’t go to college at all. 

For those of us in higher education policy, we anticipate the announcement also will put focused attention back on college cost. The announcement includes reference to future accountability measures on colleges by putting a spotlight on programs in which borrowers owe more money than is considered affordable to repay. We are already in direct conversation with the Department of Education on the proposals. You can see my statement on the announcement here

Despite all the attention on student loan forgiveness, we continued to be focused on S. 4458, the Ensuring the Best Schools for Veterans Act, which is awaiting the President’s signature. 

  • The Department of Education announced earlier this year that it would bring borrowers out of default if they defaulted on their loans prior to the declaration of a national emergency. This effort is known as “Fresh Start,” and the Department has released updated guidance to help institutions assist with this new effort. Fresh Start will remain available to previously defaulted borrowers for one-year after the end of the national emergency. 
  • In response to the most recent Notice of Proposed Rulemaking released by the Department of Education, we submitted comments this week expressing our sector’s concern over proposed changes to the definition of a private, nonprofit institution. Due to our prior advocacy efforts, the Department had pulled back the majority of the problematic language included in earlier proposals; however, language still remains that is broad and questionable. Our letter had 42 signatories from NAICU’s state and mission-based association members. We now await the final rule to be published by November 1st.
  • The Secretary of Education formally announced the termination of the Accrediting Council for Independent College and Schools (ACICS) as a recognized accreditor on August 19. After years of troubles for the for-profit college accreditor, only 27 institutions still rely on ACICS for access to federal student aid. Those institutions will have 18 months to find a new accreditor before losing access to federal student aid.
  • Clare Viall has moved to the Department of Education to serve as the deputy assistant secretary in the Office of Legislative and Congressional Affairs (OLCA) after nearly four years of working on higher education policy for Chairman Bobby Scott (D-VA) on the House Committee on Education & Labor. OLCA works with Congress to advocate for the priorities of the Administration. 

Double Pell

"For 50 years, Pell Grants have been a key way for the federal government to help lower-income families, particularly those earning less than $60,000 a year, to send their kids to college. Those Pell Grants used to cover 80 percent — 80 percent of the cost of going to a public four-year college. Today, Pell Grants cover roughly 32 percent. That’s one third of the cost, as opposed to before. It matters.”

“And I must be honest with you: I’m going to continue to fight for doubling the Pell Grants. I didn’t get that done this time.”

President Joe Biden during this week’s announcement on the Administration’s plan to forgive federal student loan debt.

Barbara K. Mistick, D.M.
President, NAICU

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