Despite the Build Back Better Act passing the House in November, little has been done in the Senate regarding budget reconciliation. The Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor & Pensions just released text of the Build Back Better Act, with minimal changes from the House version to comply with Senate budget rules. Committee Chair Patty Murray (D-WA) stated in a press release regarding the legislation, “This bill will dramatically lower families’ costs for things like childcare, health care, and education, train workers for good-paying, union jobs, and take needed action against climate change, and it’s fully paid for by ensuring the very wealthiest in our country finally pay their fair share. I look forward to getting Build Back Better over the finish line.”
Late yesterday, President Joe Biden acknowledged the unlikelihood of Senate passage of the Build Back Better Act before the holiday season. The Senate will resume consideration of the bill upon their return to Washington, DC in the new year.
Negotiated Rulemaking Committee on Affordability and Student Loans
According to recent media reports, the committee is finding it difficult to come to consensus on several important issues. As of last week, the committee had voted on eight of the twelve issues, but only reached consensus on two issues: total permanent disability discharge and interest capitalization. The December 10, Inside Higher Ed article, “Recap: Rule-Making Committee Struggles to Reach Consensus,” says the following: “After meeting twice for weeklong sessions in October and November, the Affordability and Student Loans Committee convened Monday to evaluate how the department incorporated feedback from the first two sessions into draft regulations for 12 issues, including closed-college discharges, income-driven repayment plans and the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program. The goal of the final session is for the group of negotiators to vote issue by issue on the proposed language and reach consensus, meaning that no member of the negotiating committee dissents. This is a new part of the process—before, negotiators would vote on the entire package of regulations.”
The committee has not reached consensus on Income-Driven Repayment plans and the Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) program. Moreover, some committee members have expressed concern about the Department of Education’s recently released Expanded Income Contingent Repayment plan (EICR). The department’s proposed language for EICR would allow loan forgiveness only after 20 years of repayment and would only make it available to undergraduate student loans. “Among the concerns raised by negotiators were that the 20-year repayment period is too long, loans for graduate programs shouldn’t be excluded and the federal poverty threshold before payments start should be at 300 percent rather than 200 percent.” CGS will work with other higher education and professional organizations on the EICR issue.
Information regarding the Negotiated Rulemaking for Higher Education 2021-22 can be found here.
Equal Justice Works and the PSLF Coalition are holding a series of webinars in 2022 about recent updates to the PSLF program and how to apply for PSLF and TEPSLF during the temporary waiver offered by the Department of Education. To register for the webinars, click here.
Executive Order on Transforming Federal Customer Experience
In a press release, Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona said, “I’m proud of the Education Department’s work on behalf of the American people, from supporting states and districts in fully reopening schools for in-person learning; to fighting to ensure that the rights of historically and presently underserved students are protected; to increasing equity and excellence in P-12 education; to improving access, affordability, and success in postsecondary education.”