President Biden Announces Debt Relief for Graduate Student Loans

After months of anticipation, President Biden announced a final extension of the pause on student loan repayments and a one-time debt cancellation for undergraduate and graduate student borrowers. The final pause on student loan repayments, interest, and collections will extend through December 31, 2022.

On August 24, the Biden Administration announced and laid-out its plan to cancel up to $20,000 in debt for Pell Grant recipients with loans held by the Department of Education, and up to $10,000 in debt cancellation for non-Pell Grant recipients. Borrowers are eligible for this relief if their individual income is less than $125,000 or $250,000 for married couples or heads of household. The plan includes up to $10,000 in debt cancellation for graduate student loan debt, Graduate PLUS, and Parent PLUS loans. The plan also includes the creation of a new income-driven repayment plan that would cut in half – from 10 percent to 5 percent of discretionary income – that borrowers may pay on their undergraduate loans. Borrowers with both undergraduate and graduate loans will pay a weighted average rate. More details about the new IDR plan and the broader debt relief plan will be forthcoming in the weeks ahead.

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“A graduate degree can open doors to economic prosperity and help propel individuals into the middle class,” Suzanne T. Ortega, president of CGS said in a statement. “Student loan debt shouldn’t be a burden on students or parents who may not have a financial safety net during the pandemic crisis.”

A Education Department press release on the plan can be found here, as well as the legal memo regarding its authority for student loan relief. President’s Biden’s speech regarding the student loan debt relief plan can be found here.

Department of Homeland Security Issues Regulation to Preserve and Fortify DACA

On August 24, the Department of Homeland Security issued a final rule to preserve and fortify the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. The rule continues the DACA program as announced in the 2012 Napolitano Memorandum. The rule:

  • Maintains the existing threshold criteria for DACA
  • Retains the existing process for DACA requestors to seek work authorization
  • Affirms the longstanding policy that DACA is not a form of lawful status but that DACA recipients, like other deferred action recipients, are considered “lawfully present” for certain purposes.
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“Today, we are taking another step to do everything in our power to preserve and fortify DACA, an extraordinary program that has transformed the lives of so many Dreamers,” said Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security Alejandro N. Mayorkas in a statement. “Thanks to DACA, we have been enriched by young people who contribute so much to our communities and our country. Yet, we need Congress to pass legislation that provides an enduring solution for the young Dreamers who have known no country other than the United States as their own.”

U.S. Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-IL), co-sponsor of the Dream Act with Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC), mentioned in a press release “Over the past decade, DACA has allowed more than 800,000 Dreamers—teachers, nurses, small business owners, and members of our military—to remain in the only home they’ve ever known – America. I applaud DHS for issuing this final rule to provide some stability to DACA recipients and make it more difficult for a future administration to rescind DACA, which is a lawful exercise of prosecutorial discretion. However, this rule cannot provide permanent legal status or fully protect DACA recipients from relentless Republican legal challenges to the program.  Only Congress can protect them.  I urge my Republican colleagues to stop obstructing our efforts to protect Dreamers.”

Office of Science and Technology Policy Issues Guidance Ensuring Access to Federally Funded Research

On August 25, the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) updated U.S. policy guidance to make the results of taxpayer-supported research immediately available to the American public at no cost. All agencies will fully implement updated policies, including ending the optional 12-month embargo, no later than December 31, 2025. Dr. Alondra Nelson, head of the OSTP wrote in the memo changing the guidance, “Improving public access policies across the U.S. government to promote the rapid sharing of federally funded research data with appropriate protections and accountability measures will allow for greater validity of research results and more equitable access to data resources aligned with these ideals. To promote equity and advance the work of restoring the public’s trust in Government science, and to advance American scientific leadership, now is the time to amend federal policy to deliver immediate public access to federally funded research.”

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For more information, please see the OSTP press release, as well as the article in Inside Higher Ed, “No Paywall for Taxpayer Funded Research, U.S. Declares.”

Department of Energy Webinar on Diverse Workforce

On September 21, the Department of Energy’s Office of Science will hold a webinar on new initiatives for a diverse and inclusive energy sciences workforce. The virtual meeting is being held in conjunction with the 2022 HBCU Week National Annual Conference hosted by the White House Initiative for HBCUs (WHI-HBCUs). The Initiative is dedicated to a government-wide policymaking effort to eliminate barriers HBCUs face in providing the highest-quality education to a growing number of students. If you are interested in attending the event, click here to register.

Office of Science and Technology Policy Seeks Comments on LGBTQI+ Equity

The White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) released a federal register notice requesting input from the public to help inform the development of the Federal Evidence Agenda on LGBTQI+ Equity. This will improve the Federal government’s ability to make data-informed policy decisions that advance equity for the LGBTQI+ community.  All written comments are due by October 3, 2022.

OSTP welcomes comments on the topics below:

  • Description of disparities faced by LGBTQI+ individuals that could be better understood through Federal statistics and data collection.
  • Identifying Federal data collections where improved sex characteristics data collection may be important for advancing the Federal Government’s ability to measure disparities facing LGBTQI+ individuals.
  • Identifying practices for all agencies engaging in sex characteristics data collection to follow in order to safeguard privacy, security, and civil rights, including with regard to appropriate and robust practices of consent for the collection of this data and restrictions on its use or transfer.