The original goal of the Higher Education Act was to ensure that every American has access to higher education, regardless of income or zip code. Disinvestment in higher education after the Great Recession halted progress toward that goal. In the 2016-17 school year, states invested $9 billion less in public colleges and universities than they did in 2008 (after adjusting for inflation), according to the independent Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.
Students and families — not public dollars — now fund the bulk of core educational expenses. At the same time, educational support services have shrunk, making it difficult for students to make appropriate choices among programs and degrees, complete coursework in a timely way, and navigate challenges to college completion. The GOP’s proposed rewrite of the law, the Promoting Real Opportunity, Success and Prosperity through Education Reform (PROSPER) Act (H.R. 4508), would exacerbate those problems by eliminating loan-forgiveness for public service, capping student loans, and relaxing oversight of for-profit schools with a history of preying on at-risk students. NEA opposes the PROSPER Act in its current form.
The Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) Caucus aims to preserve PSLF, which encourages students to pursue careers in education, firefighting, law enforcement, and other forms of public service. Reps. Brendan Boyle (D-PA) and Ryan Costello (R-PA) discuss the importance of PSLF in an op-ed published by The Hill.
NEA was extremely pleased to see the first ever inclusion of the Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) program in discretionary funding in the FY 2018 Omnibus bill that passed Congress in March 2018. The FY18 bill includes $350 million in discretionary relief funding and makes an important technical fix to the program, which modifies eligibility for students who were unaware they were enrolled in an ineligible repayment plan but are otherwise eligible for PSLF. This program is crucial because it encourages college graduates to pursue careers in education, firefighting, law enforcement and other forms of public service.
The College for All Act (S. 806/H.R. H.R. 1880), introduced in April 2017 by Sen. Bernie Sanders (D-VT) and Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-WA), would make community college free and eliminate tuition and fees at four-year public colleges and universities for students from families earning less than $125,000 a year — about 80 percent of the population. The bill also cuts student loan interest rates in half and would allow student loans to be refinanced when interest rates drop.