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— A House subcommittee is holding an oversight hearing today on the Trump administration’s implementation of the public service loan forgiveness program, which has rejected the vast majority of borrowers who apply.
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IT’S THURSDAY, SEPT. 19. WELCOME TO MORNING EDUCATION. Drop me a line with your tips and feedback: firstname.lastname@example.org or @mstratford. Share event listings: email@example.com. And follow us on Twitter: @Morning_Edu and @POLITICOPro.
Driving the Day
HOUSE PANEL TO EXAMINE PUBLIC SERVICE LOAN FORGIVENESS DENIALS: Democrats are holding the hearing on the public service loan forgiveness program as complaints about rejections have made it to the 2020 presidential campaign trail. Nearly every Democratic contender has made expanding or fixing the program a part of their education plan.
— The Trump administration, which has called on Congress to eliminate public service loan forgiveness, has said it’s faithfully carrying out the law as it currently exists. Education Department officials have blamed Congress for creating a complicated set of criteria that borrowers need to meet to quality for loan forgiveness.
— On today’s witness list: Jeff Appel, a career Education Department official; Melissa Emrey-Arras, who directs education issues at the GAO; Yael Shavit, an assistant attorney general of Massachusetts; Kelly Finlaw, a New York City teacher, who is one of the named plaintiffs in a lawsuit against the department; and Matthew M. Chingos, vice president for education data and policy at the Urban Institute, a think tank.
— The company that the Education Department hires to manage the program isn’t expected to be there. James H. Steeley, the head of the Pennsylvania Higher Education Assistance Authority, which operates as FedLoan Servicing, earlier this week refused an invitation to testify.
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— In the morning, DeVos will visit Harrisburg, Pa., to visit a Catholic elementary school. She’ll hold a roundtable discussion on her federal tax credit scholarship proposal with Pennsylvania Speaker of the House Mike Turzai and representatives from the state’s Catholic Conference and the Diocese of Harrisburg.
— In the afternoon, DeVos will be in Traverse City, Mich. She’ll tour Great Lakes Maritime Academy, which is part of Northwestern Michigan College.
— Other top Education Department officials will be visiting schools and colleges in other cities across the country as part of the tour. Scott Stump, the assistant secretary for career, technical, and adult education, will be in South Charleston, W.Va., for a tour of BridgeValley Community and Technical College.
— Frank Brogan, the assistant secretary for K-12 education, will be in Mississippi to discuss homelessness. He’ll meet with members of the Open Doors Homeless Coalition in Gulfport to “hear about their efforts to reduce family and youth homelessness,” the department said. Later, he’ll visit Gulfport High School, which the department said serves a homeless population.
COURT UNSEALS SOME CFPB EVIDENCE IN NAVIENT CASE: The documents unsealed on Wednesday shed new light on one of the CFPB’s main claims against Navient: that the company allegedly “steered” struggling student loan borrowers into forbearance rather than helping them apply for income-based repayment programs.
— “Our battle cry remains ‘forbear them, forbear them, make them relinquish the ball’,” the memo says. “Said another way, we are very liberal with the use of forbearance once it is determined that a borrower cannot pay cash or utilize other entitlement programs.”
— Mark Heleen, the company’s general counsel, said in a statement to POLITICO: “After a nearly six-year legal process, the CFPB has failed to produce a single student loan borrower to support their baseless claims against Navient, the leader in student loan default prevention. These documents clearly show that Navient educates our borrowers about income-driven and other repayment options — any suggestion otherwise is a distortion of the facts.”
— The memo also says Navient sought to direct borrowers to options that benefit both the borrowers and the company. “We need to point them to the optimal solution based on their unique circumstances (optimal solution for the student and the firm),” the document says.
— The documents were filed by the CFPB in court earlier this year in response to Navient’s motion for partial summary judgement on two of the bureau’s claims relating to forbearance “steering.” The company argued that such behavior did not occur.
— But such forbearance “steering” did, in fact, occur, the CFPB countered in the newly unsealed response. Besides the 2010 memo, the bureau also submitted training documents, internal emails and testimony from former employees that it said showed Navient directed financially struggling borrowers into forbearance without offering them the option of income-based repayment. Pros can read more.
— The study, conducted annually by The Institute for College Access and Success, suggests that class of 2018 graduates owed an average of $29,200 upon graduation, a 2 percent increase from the average of $28,650 in 2017. In comparison, between 1996 and 2012, the average debt of borrowers increased steadily, at an average of 4 percent per year, before it began to substantially slow between 2012 and 2016. Read more.
SCRAMBLE OVER EDUCATION APPROPRIATIONS, STOPGAP FUNDING: Senate appropriators on Wednesday released their plan to fund federal education programs for the coming 2020 fiscal year. The legislation overall would provide $71.4 billion in discretionary spending on education, less than the House’s proposed $75.9 billion for the Education Department. Both levels are more than the $64 billion that President Donald Trump’s budget requested for the agency. Read more on what’s in the bill.
— The Senate bill largely avoids the deepest cuts the Trump administration had proposed to education programs — but it would fund many programs at levels lower than the House-passed bill — H.R. 2740 (116) — which was written and passed before Congress reached a two-year budget deal, H.R. 3877 (116).
— Meanwhile, House Democrats on Wednesday evening unveiled their proposal, H.R. 4378, for a stopgap funding measure to avoid a government shutdown when discretionary funding for the federal government runs out at midnight on Sept. 30.
— The continuing resolution would keep funding for agencies, including the Education Department, at their current level until Nov. 21. The measure also includes a provision that would continue the authorization for the National Advisory Committee on Institutional Quality and Integrity, the federal accreditation panel that will otherwise expire on Sept. 30.
Movers and Shakers
— University of California President Janet Napolitano announced she’s stepping down from her role next year. The former Arizona governor and Homeland Security secretary during the Obama administration said she plans to teach public policy at UC Berkeley but has no plans to re-enter public office — for now. POLITICO California’s Mackenzie Mays has more.
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Jane Norman @janenorman
Nicole Gaudiano @ngaudiano
Michael Stratford @mstratford
About The Author : Michael Stratford
Michael Stratford is an education reporter for POLITICO Pro. He most recently covered federal higher education policy and student loans at Inside Higher Ed, with previous bylines at The Associated Press, The Chronicle of Higher Education, and Kiplinger’s Personal Finance magazine. Stratford grew up in Belmont, Mass. and graduated from Cornell University, where he was managing editor of The Cornell Daily Sun.
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