On April 15, CGS President Suzanne Ortega sent a letter to Members of the 117th Congress to encourage them to make the mental health and well-being of graduate students and their families a high priority when developing mental health legislation. CGS President Ortega says in the letter, “The nation’s graduate schools serve two important and distinctive roles in the mental health arena. First, graduate schools provide a refuge for graduate students and their families; a place where they can succeed academically and find the necessary resources and support to alleviate undue stress. Second, graduate schools educate and train the mental health professionals needed to provide health care services and support to the people in our communities.” Congress must make the education and training of mental health professionals a priority through the introduction and passage of relevant legislation.
To further our advocacy on graduate student mental health, CGS strongly encourages CGS members to share this important letter with your Congressional Delegations.
Student Loan Updates Take Center Stage at Department of Education and Congress
The Department of Education announced steps this week that will bring borrowers closer to public service loan and income-driven repayment (IDR) forgiveness by addressing failures in administering the student loan programs. “Student loans were never meant to be a life sentence, but it’s certainly felt that way for borrowers locked out of debt relief they’re eligible for,” said U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona. “Today, the Department of Education will begin to remedy years of administrative failures that effectively denied the promise of loan forgiveness to certain borrowers enrolled in IDR plans. These actions once again demonstrate the Biden-Harris administration’s commitment to delivering meaningful debt relief and ensuring federal student loan programs are administered fairly and effectively.”
According to the Department of Education press release and an article from Inside Higher Education, the department will address the issue of “forbearance steering.” Specifically, the department will require loan servicers to provide borrowers with clear and accurate information for staying out of delinquency, as well as the financial consequences of choosing short-term options of forbearance. “The department will address forbearance steering by conducting a one-time account adjustment that will count forbearances of more than 12 months consecutive and more than 36 months cumulative toward forgiveness under IDR and Public Sector Loan Forgiveness (PSLF).” For more detailed information about the department’s plans for fixing these loan programs, please read the press release.
The department announcement came right before the Government Accountability Office (GAO) noted in a report that the Department of Education has had trouble tracking payments and has not done enough to ensure that all eligible borrowers receive the forgiveness to which they are entitled. The GAO found thousands of borrowers still in repayment who were eligible for forgiveness. For more information of the recent GAO report, please read the House Education and Labor Committee press release.
Application Package for Strengthening Historically Black Graduate Institutions (HBGI)
The Department of Education released a federal register notice this week regarding the application package for strengthening Historically Black Graduate Institutions. The Strengthening Historically Black Graduate Institutions (HBGI) Program provides grants to assist institutions in establishing and strengthening their physical plants, development offices, endowment funds, academic resources, and student services so that they may continue to participate in fulfilling the goal of equal opportunity in graduate education. Funds may be used to assist needy graduate students, student service programs designed to improve academic success, and many others. President Biden’s FY23 Budget Request proposes $102.3 million for the program, an increase of 9.9 percent from FY22 enacted appropriations. For more information about this program, please read the CGS analysis of the budget request and appropriations here.
National Academies Resources on Sexual Harassment in Higher Education
The National Academies of Science, Engineering, and Medicine’s Action Collaborative on Preventing Sexual Harassment in Higher Education released a new report on university policies to address sexual harassment. The report Applying Procedural Justice to Sexual Harassment Policies, Processes, and Practice explores how a procedural justice framework could help guide improvements within higher education institutions.
The University of California, Davis and the University of Wisconsin system also released reports on policies to prevent “passing the harasser,” referring to harassers transitioning from one institution to another without facing disciplinary action.
The Action Collaborative on Preventing Sexual Harassment in Higher Education will host a 2022 Public Summit from October 19-20, 2022. The Action Collaborative welcomes proposals for presentations, posters, and sessions for the Public Summit.
SEVP Extends Online Learning Options for International Students
The Department of Homeland Security’s Immigration and Customs Enforcement has extended guidance for international students in the COVID-era. Through the 2022-2023 academic year, international students enrolled in U.S. colleges and universities can take more online courses than previously allowed. According to the guidance, “Consistent with the March 2020 guidance, for the 2022-23 academic year nonimmigrant students may remain in the United States to engage in a fully online program of study if they have not otherwise violated the terms of their nonimmigrant status. Students will be able to maintain their nonimmigrant status and not be subject to initiation of removal proceedings based on their online studies. If a student violates other U.S. laws or regulations that impact their immigration status, they could be subject to removal.”
For more information, please read the NAFSA Resource on SEVP’s 2022-23 COVID-19 Guidance for F-1 Schools here.
CGS Produces Policy Brief on Importance of Research and Graduate Education
This week, CGS posted a policy brief on Advancing American Research and Innovation. CGS views robust federal funding for scientific research as a national imperative. For the United States to remain at the forefront of scientific research, cutting-edge technology, and advancement in innovation, there must be continued investments made to support graduate education and research.
Department of Education American Rescue Plan Summit
This week the Department of Education announced an upcoming summit focused on the ways President Biden’s American Rescue Plan is helping students, educators, families, and schools recover from the pandemic and reemerge stronger. The virtual summit, From Recovery to Thriving: How the American Rescue Plan is Supporting America’s Students, will occur Wednesday, April 27, 2022. “Thanks to American Rescue Plan funds, schools are open for in-person learning, but that is just the beginning” said Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona. “By working together, leveraging partnerships between the public and private sectors that put students first, we can meet this moment and make sure our school communities have the supports they need fueled by the American Rescue Plan. The summit will provide an opportunity for schools, educators, parents, families, students, advocates, government officials, and more to convene, share best practices, and learn about the ways these funds are making a real difference.” To attend the summit, you can register here.