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Legislation Around Capitol Hill: Congress Intros Bills Focused on Student Debt Scams, Pell Grants and Loan Forgiveness

Education Policy Roundup

Legislation Around Capitol Hill: Congress Intros Bills Focused on Student Debt Scams, Pell Grants and Loan Forgiveness

Lawmakers in Congress introduced five bills this week that could impact the lives of teachers and students in significant ways.

By Sara Friedman04/12/19

Over the last week,
lawmakers in the Senate have introduced five bills that are designed
to radically shift the United States  educational system by supporting loan
forgiveness, closing the digital divide, tracking down student debt
relief scams, creating evidence-based education grants and restoring
Pell Grant eligibility for incarcerated individuals.

Here are five bills
that would change how the federal government oversees educational
programs:

Senators
Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) and U.S. Senator Tim Kaine (D-VA)
introduced the What
You Can Do for Your Country Act of 2019, which will
overhaul the Public Service Loan
Forgiveness (PSLF) program. This bill will
expand eligibility to make every type of federal loan and repayment
plan included in the PSLF program and to allow public servants to
count on repayment when they apply for loan forgiveness. The
legislation is supported by several organizations including AFSCME,
the National Education
Association, Equal
Justice Works and Student
Debt Crisis.

Senator Patty
Murray (D-WA) introduced the Digital
Equity Act of 2019, which will create federal
investments targeted at closing the digital divide in communities
across the United States. The legislation will create an annual $125
million formula grant program for all 50 states, the District of
Columbia and Puerto Rico and an additional annual $125 million
competitive grant program to support digital equity projects
undertaken by individual groups, coalitions or communities of
interest.

The
bill is supported by CoSN. “This new digital equity bill constitutes a
major step forward toward closing the homework gap and providing
equitable digital access to students nationwide — regardless of
where they live or their family’s income,” said CoSN CEO Keith
Krueger in a statement. “If enacted, the bill will ensure that
schools in rural and underserved communities are not left behind in
our increasingly digital world.”

Senator Tammy
Baldwin (D-WI) is leading a group of bipartisan senators to
introduce the Stop
Student Debt Relief Scams Act. The legislation will
enhance law enforcement and administrative abilities to identify and
shut down student debt relief scams. Specifically, the bill will
direct the Department of Education to create a new form of
third-party access, similar to the current preparer function on the
Free
Application for Student Aid for individuals who are
applying on behalf of a student and their family, in order to
protect legitimate organizations. The legislation is supported by
the Education
Finance Council, Generation
Progress, National
Consumer Law Center,
National Council of Higher Education Resources,
Student Loan
Servicing Alliance, The
Institute for College Access and Success and Young
Invincibles.

Senator Todd
Young (R-IN) introduced the Fund
for Innovation and Success in Higher Education (FINISH) Act,
which supports the use of evidence-based innovation grants and the
pay for success model to improve student outcomes. The legislation
would amend the Fund
for the Improvement of Postsecondary Education (FIPSE)
to allow grant recipients to use a portion of their funds for tiered
evidence-based grants. The bill also encourages institutions to
make all forms of postsecondary open educational resources
instructional content widely available and allows the Secretary of
Education to approve up to five
Pay-for-Success pilot initiatives each fiscal year to
allow grant recipients to partner with outside organizations achieve
the goals of federally funded higher education grant programs.

Senator Brian
Schatz (D-HI) introduced the Restoring
Education and Learning (REAL) Act to restore Pell
Grant eligibility for incarcerated individuals. In 1994,
incarcerated individuals lost access to Pell Grant assistance, which
caused a significant drop in the number of education programs in
prison. The legislation is intended to restore access to these
grants, which would reduce recidivism and incarceration costs by
increasing access to higher education. This bill is supported by
several organizations including National
Association of Independent Colleges and Universities,
American Association of Community Colleges and the
NAACP
Legal Defense and Education Fund.

About the Author

Sara Friedman is a reporter/producer for Campus Technology, THE Journal and STEAM Universe covering education policy and a wide range of other public-sector IT topics.

Friedman is a graduate of Ithaca College, where she studied journalism, politics and international communications.

Friedman can be contacted at sfriedman@1105media.com or follow her on Twitter @SaraEFriedman.

Click here for previous articles by Friedman.