E-Update for the Week of August 29, 2022
- On August 19, the U.S. Department of Education (USED) announced the August F. Hawkins Centers of Excellence program, an $8 million grant competition aimed at increasing the diversity of the teacher workforce and preparing teachers to meet the needs of our most underserved students.
- On August 22, Senator Rick Scott introduced S. 4772, the Changing Our Learning, Loans, Endowments, and Graduation Expectations (COLLEGE) Act, to hold institutions of higher education accountable for student outcomes.
- On August 24, the Biden-Harris Administration announced a new plan to target student loan debt and repayment, and make changes to the student loan system.
Biden-Harris Administration announces student loan relief and extension of student loan pause: On August 24, the Biden-Harris Administration announced a new plan to target student loan debt and repayment, and make changes to the federal student loan program. USED will cancel up to $20,000 in federal student loans for Pell Grant recipients, and cancel up to $10,000 for non-Pell Grant recipients. Individuals with annual income less than $125,000 and married couples with combined income less than $250,000 are eligible to apply for relief. The Administration also extended the COVID-19-related pause on federal student loan repayments one final time, through December 31, 2022. Announcing the plan, President Biden shared that the changes and loan forgiveness would “provide more breathing room for people so they have less burden by student debt.” Biden also added, “no high-income individual or high-income household will benefit from this action. In fact, about 90 percent of the eligible beneficiaries make under $75,000 a family.”
In the announcement, USED’s Office of General Counsel (OGC) issued a memorandum detailing the Secretary’s existing legal authority for debt cancellation. OGC determined that the Higher Education Relief Opportunities for Students (“HEROES”) Act of 2003, which was signed into law by President George W. Bush, grants the Secretary the authority to issue a targeted loan cancellation program directed at addressing the financial harms of the COVID-19 pandemic. USED Secretary Miguel Cardona commented that, “today, we’re delivering targeted relief that will help ensure borrowers are not placed in a worse position financially because of the pandemic, and restore trust in a system that should be creating opportunity, not a debt trap.”
Information from USED’s Office of Federal Student Aid outlined changes to the federal student loan system, proposing a new income-driven repayment plan that caps monthly payments for undergraduate loans at 5% of a borrower’s discretionary income. This change cuts the current rate in half for most borrowers on existing payment plans. The plan also raises the amount of income that is considered non-discretionary income and, therefore, is protected from repayment. Borrowers who make the annual equivalent of a $15 minimum wage would not have to make monthly loan payments. The proposed rule also forgives loan balances after 10 years of payments, instead of 20 years, for borrowers with loan balances of $12,000 or less. The final piece of the proposed rule would prevent borrowers’ loan balance from increasing through accrued interest, as long as they make monthly payments, by covering borrowers’ unpaid monthly interest. This includes borrowers whose monthly payment is $0 because their income is low.
USED is also proposing a rule to expand eligibility for Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) to borrowers who have worked at a nonprofit, in the military, or in federal, state, or local government.
Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee Chair Patty Murray (D-WA) and House Education and Labor Committee Chairman Bobby Scott (D-VA) both made statements following the announcement; Chairwoman Murray remarked, “Tonight, tens of millions of borrowers across the country who’ve been saddled with student debt can sleep easier knowing their balances will finally go down—and millions will see their debt wiped entirely.” Senate HELP Committee Ranking Member Richard Burr (R-NC) and House Education and Labor Committee Ranking Member Virginia Foxx (R-NC) also responded to the announcement. Ranking Member Foxx stated, “Confusion reigns in the Biden administration—borrowers have no clear guidance and taxpayers are forced to pay for a bill they shouldn’t owe. This is wrong, unfair, and irresponsible. … This is a slap in the face to those who never went to college, as well as borrowers who upheld their responsibility to taxpayers and paid back their loans.”
August 24, 2022
U.S. Department of Education (USED):
USED announces a new $8 million grant competition to increase diversity in teacher workforce: On August 19, USED announced the August F. Hawkins Centers of Excellence program, an $8 million grant competition aimed at increasing the diversity of the teacher workforce and preparing teachers to meet the needs of our most underserved students. Authorized under Part B of the Higher Education Act, grants will fund applicants that propose to incorporate evidence-driven practices into their teacher preparation programs. The announcement references studies that have shown that teachers who enter the profession through comprehensive pathways are two to three times more likely to remain in the profession, compared to teachers who enter through less comprehensive pathways. USED Secretary Miguel Cardona remarked, “At a time when we need to do more to support our teachers and the educator profession, Hawkins Centers of Excellence will help increase the number of well-prepared and qualified teachers, including teachers of color, in our workforce.” The federal register notice can be found here, the deadline to submit is October 7, 2022.
August 19, 2022
USED ends federal recognition of accreditation through Accrediting Council for Independent Colleges and Schools (ACICS): On August 19, USED formally terminated federal recognition of ACICS, and announced that colleges currently accredited by ACICS will be required to fulfill additional operating conditions to continue participating in the federal student aid programs. The termination followed USED’s Deputy Secretary Cindy Marten’s decision not to recognize ACICS as an accrediting agency, based on findings that ACICS was not in compliance with the Department’s required criteria. ACICS currently accredits 27 schools that enroll nearly 5,000 students. Institutions that are currently ACICS-accredited will be provisionally certified for continued participation in the federal student aid programs for up to 18 months from the announcement. This provisional period provides time for institutions to seek accreditation from a different accrediting agency. The Department will require all ACICS-accredited institutions to agree to a provisional program agreement, which details additional requirements that institutions must meet in order to continue offering federal student aid.
August 19, 2022
USED announces $10 billion in student debt relief following temporary changes to Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) program: On August 23, USED announced that it has approved over $10 billion in student loan relief following temporary changes to the PSLF program. The temporary changes, first announced in October 2021, allow borrowers to get credit for payments made on loans from the Federal Family Education Loan (FFEL) Program, Perkins Loan Program, and other federal student loans. Additionally, past periods of repayment count whether or not borrowers were on a qualifying repayment plan, or whether or not borrowers made payments. USED Secretary Miguel Cardona noted that this debt relief would impact more than 175,000 public servants and that the Biden-Harris administration is “committed to helping borrowers who choose to pursue careers in education, public health, social work, law enforcement, and other critical fields receive the benefits to which they’re entitled for leading lives of service.” A PSLF toolkit for employers can be found here and stakeholders can use the toolkit found here.
August 23, 2022
USED releases back-to-school checklist for parents: On August 25, USED released a back-to-school checklist for parents and families, aimed at helping parents, caregivers, and families engage with local school and district leaders about how they are supporting students as they recover from the impacts of the pandemic. The checklist addresses student learning, ensuring the needs of the whole child are met, COVID-19 health and safety, and engaging families – and elevates evidence-based practices for supporting students’ learning and mental health, and ensuring the safety of students and staff, particularly through the implementation of COVID relief funds. The guidance highlights practices from fifteen states and districts that are implementing ARP funds with effective strategies to support students and to staff schools. USED Secretary Miguel Cardona shared, “The checklist offers a starting point for parents, caregivers, and families to have meaningful discussions with school leaders about how they are supporting students, including with American Rescue Plan funds.”
August 25, 2022
Senator Rick Scott introduces higher education bill tying institutions to student outcomes: On August 22, Senator Rick Scott (R-FL) introduced S. 4772, the Changing Our Learning, Loans, Endowments, and Graduation Expectations (COLLEGE) Act. The legislation is aimed at holding institutions of higher education accountable to student performance and taxpayers through three key changes. S. 4772 would make institutions responsible for 1% of student loan balances that are in default within the first three fiscal years after borrowers’ loans enter repayment. This financial responsibility would increase to 2% in the second year, through 10% at the end of ten years. Second, the legislation would require new reporting metrics, including the 6-year graduation rate, the percentage of graduates in full-time employment or post-graduate education, and the cost to graduate with a degree from each of the institution’s academic programs. Finally, the COLLEGE Act would require any institution with an endowment to report the endowment’s size and growth, and depending on the size of the endowment, provide a cost-match for federal student aid to pay for tuition and educational costs. The larger the endowment, the higher the match the institution must provide. Introducing the bill, Senator Scott remarked, “If we want real results that improve student performance, boost post-graduation job placement and keep tuition affordable, we need to do the hard work of actually holding colleges and universities responsible for the outcomes of their students and accountable to the American taxpayer.”
August 22, 2022
House Republicans send letter to USED on COVID relief funds: On August 25, House Oversight Committee Ranking Member James Comer (R-KY), House on Education and Labor Committee Ranking Member Virginia Foxx (R-NC), and several Oversight Committee Republicans sent a letter to USED requesting information on the Department’s handling of COVID-19 relief funds. The Representatives wrote that they “plan to ensure the Department is doing everything in its power to ensure states and school districts properly target funds to remedy the acute learning losses brought on by prolonged pandemic school closures.” The letter calls attention to reports that show “the vast majority” of federal COVID relief funding has been unspent by districts and schools. “Many states and local school districts are failing to act or are using the funds on ‘new technology,’ positions that are not student-facing such as a Director of School Climate and Culture, or other pet projects that will not benefit students or put them back on the path to academic success,” they continued. The letter requests documents that show the average number of school days buildings were closed, state and local communication related to learning loss, and policy guidance provided by USED to State and Local Education Agencies. The letter requests information beginning January 31, 2022, and that USED provide the documentation by September 1, 2022.
August 25, 2022
Upcoming Events (Congress & Administration):
- On August 31 at 1:00 pm, USED will host a webinar titled “Helping Teachers Afford Comprehensive Pathways into the Profession and Achieve Loan Forgiveness.” The webinar will present opportunities to learn about changes and new flexibilities to the TEACH Grant program and the limited time Public Service Loan Forgiveness waiver. More information and registration here.
Upcoming Events (Outside Organizations):
- On September 22 at 2:00 pm, the Data Quality Campaign (DQC) is hosting a webinar titled, “Measuring Job and Credential Quality – The Role of State P-20W Data Systems.” DQC, in partnership with Credential Engine, Jobs for the Future, and National Skills Coalition will highlight the importance of state data systems in collecting data on program, job, and credential quality, providing timely information to the public, and using data to ensure equitable attainment of quality jobs and credentials. Representatives from two states currently doing this work will discuss their efforts to prioritize data collection and transparent access to information. More information and registration here.
- On September 22 at 4:30pm, PDK International will host a webinar titled, “Start Recruiting the Next Generation of Teachers Today.” The webinar will examine the implications of the teacher shortage crisis and explore how Educators Rising can help support workforce development initiatives, invest in career readiness, and prepare the next generation of highly skilled educators. More information and registration here.
Publications (Congress & Administration):
- On August 23, the Institute of Education Sciences (IES) released a new set of data and web tables from their Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS) fall 2021 collection. The data show that between the 2019-20 and 20221-22 school years, public institutions reported a 3 percent decrease for in-state students and 4 percent decrease for out-of-state students. Private nonprofit institutions reported a decrease of approximately 2 percent, while private for-profit institutions reported a decrease of approximately 4 percent. IES also collected information on enrollment in distance education, which showed that of the approximately 9.3 million undergraduate students enrolled exclusively in distance education, around 7.3 million were enrolled at public institutions, 1.1 million at private nonprofit institutions, and 833,000 at private for-profit institutions.
- On August 23, IES released the Back-to-School Fast Facts for 2022-23 School Year. Preliminary data from fall 2021 show that 49.5 million students were enrolled in public schools in prekindergarten through grade 12, which was higher than enrollment in fall 2020 (49.4 million). Public school enrollment was higher in all years from 2010 to 2019 than it was in 2020 and 2021, ranging from 49.5 million students in fall 20101 to 50.8 million students in fall 2019. Data was collected on learning modes, which showed that 98 percent of public schools offered full-time in-person instruction to any students in June 2022, and 33 percent of public schools offered full-time remote instruction. The fast facts include information on postsecondary enrollment, which indicate that in fall 2020, of the students who were enrolled in colleges and universities, 11.4 million were female and 8.0 million were male. Postsecondary enrollment in fall 2020 (19.4 million students) was about 10 percent lower than in fall 2010 (21.6 million students), when enrollment was at its peak.
Publications (Outside Organizations):
- On August 17, The Education Trust released a new report titled, “For Student Parents, The Biggest Hurdles to a Higher Education are Costs and Finding Child Care.” Authors conducted an analysis of higher education students who are also parents, studying the cost of child care and the price of attending a public four-year college to determine a student parent’s actual annual cost of pursuing a degree. The report shows that there is no state in which a student parent can work 10 hours per week at the minimum wage and afford both tuition and child care at a public college or university. Findings also show that the out-of-pocket cost of attending a public college is 2 to 5 times higher for student parents than for their low-income peers without children. A student parent would need to work 52 hours per week, on average, to cover child care and tuition costs at a four-year public college or university in the U.S. The report concludes by making recommendations to policymakers at the federal, state, and campus level, which include doubling the Pell Grant, raising the federal minimum wage to $20, and increasing institutional-level data collection.
- On August 26, Phi Delta Kappa (PDK) Internal released the findings on their Annual Poll of the Public’s Attitudes Toward the Public Schools. The poll results show “conflicted views of public schools,” as the community approval rating for public schools reached 54 percent, a five-decade high, yet only 37 percent of respondents indicated that they would want their child to become a public school teacher. Additionally, 63 percent of respondents indicated they had “a great deal” or good amount” of overall trust and confidence in their community’s public school teachers.
A bill to prevent class-based loan forgiveness for Federal student loans under title IV of the Higher Education Act of 1965 without the explicit appropriation of funds by Congress for such purpose.
Sponsor: Rep. Warren Davidson (R-OH)
A bill to amend chapter 110 of title 18, United States Code, to prohibit gender affirming care on minors, and for other purposes.
Sponsor: Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA)