What’s Happening in Washington: Capitol Hill, the White House, and Supreme Court

The 118th Congress convened on January 3, 2023, with much fanfare and anticipation. In the last three weeks, the House of Representatives has elected Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) as Speaker of the House and made committee appointments. As mentioned in the last Washington Insights & Highlights Newsletter, Representative Virginia Foxx (R-NC) is the new chair of the House Education and Workforce Committee. According to recent committee press releases Chairwoman Foxx will be focused on oversight of the federal government, including President Biden’s Student Loan Forgiveness Plan.

As also mentioned in previous Washington Insights and Highlights newsletters, the Student Loan Forgiveness Plan is currently on hold until the Supreme Court hears arguments regarding legal standing of the plan on February 28. The plan includes cancelling 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. Graduate student loan debt is included in the proposed debt relief program. According to an article in today’s Inside Higher Ed, “Lawmakers and student debt advocacy groups are pushing the Biden administration to develop backup plans in case the U.S. Supreme Court rules against the administration’s one-time student loan forgiveness plan.” The administration is being encouraged to change its legal justification for the forgiveness plan from the Higher Education Relief Opportunities Act of 2003 to the Higher Education Act of 1965. The Supreme Court is expected to issue its ruling on the forgiveness plan in the summer. The Supreme Court is also expected to issue its ruling on the Harvard and University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill admission cases in June 2023. For more information about these cases, please read the latest Department of Education’s press release and the amicus brief that CGS signed on to in support of Harvard and UNC-Chapel Hill.

Earlier this month, the Department of Education announced proposed changes to the Income Driven Repayment (IDR) Plan. As part of that announcement, the Department also mentioned its plans to publish a list of programs at all types of colleges and universities that provide the least financial value to students. To advance this effort, the Department issued a Request for Information Regarding Public Transparency for Low-Financial-Value Postsecondary Programs. All written comments are due by February 10, 2023.

Once the list is published, institutions with programs on the list will be asked to submit plans to the Department on how to improve their financial value. This list could impact some graduate education programs throughout the country.