Legislative Activity

Senate Action on Student Loan Debt

Senate Democratic leaders will continue to press for a floor vote this week on legislation introduced by Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) to refinance rates on high-interest and private student loans, after holding three events last week on the topic. Democrats are united on the measure, which they are pushing as part of their pre-election “fair shot” agenda, while Republicans are opposed – primarily due to the pay-for provided by a tax increase on the wealthy. Today, Ranking Member on the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee is scheduled to speak out against the bill. The measure is likely to set up a bitter partisan debate on the issue when it hits the floor.

A CBO report released last week noted that, while the bill would be costly to implement, it would eventually reduce the deficit by $22 billion over 10 years.  The measure would allow existing borrowers to refinance their loans at the lower rates that were put into place for new borrowers last year, and allow borrowers with private debt to refinance under the Federal Direct Loan program. While the bill could still face procedural hurdles in the Senate due to disagreements over the amendment process, should it pass, it is highly unlikely to move in the Republican-controlled House.

Veterans’ Education

After several failed efforts, Sens. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and John McCain (R-AZ) announced a bipartisan deal on a bill to reform the Department of Veterans Affairs to expand and improve veterans’ access to health care. While details of the legislation continue to be negotiated, the draft currently includes a provision to require in-state tuition for all veterans at public colleges and universities, which was included in previous versions of Sen. Sanders’ veterans’ omnibus package. The Senators are open to amendments on the floor but are encouraging colleagues to only offer germane amendments that will not derail the measure, which could be considered as early as this week.

Upcoming Hearings:

  • Tuesday, June 10: The Senate Appropriations Labor, Health and Human Services, Education Subcommittee will markup the FY 2015 Appropriations Bill for Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education, and Related Agencies.

Regulatory Activity

College Affordability

Today, President Obama will host an event at the White House on college affordability and student loan debt. Last week, the White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest commended Senator Warren and the other Senators working on the student loan reform legislation, stating that making college more affordable and accessible is a priority for the President. Second Lady Jill Biden also endorsed Senator Warren’s legislation last week at an event with Secretary of Education Arne Duncan.

Department of Education Guidance on the Uninterrupted Scholars Act

The Department of Education released guidance seeking to provide further support for the needs of foster care students by making it easier for child welfare agencies to obtain access to the educational records of students in foster care. The guidance is based on the Uninterrupted Scholars Act, which amended the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) to permit schools and districts to provide student educational records to authorized representatives of child welfare agencies to increase the educational stability for children and youth in foster care. According to the Department, the guidance will make it easier for the agencies and staff responsible for the placement of children and youth in foster care to have direct access to their educational records. The Department also launched a new web site that details all of the resources available to help children in foster care.

MY Brother’s Keeper

Following the My Brother’s Keeper Task Force’s release of its first progress report that outlines its initial recommendations for the Initiative, eleven philanthropies have released an executive summary titled “A Time for Action” outlining their intended actions after committing $194 million to the Initiative in February.

The foundations involved are: the Annie E. Casey Foundation; The Atlantic Philanthropies; Bloomberg Philanthropies; The California Endowment, Ford Foundation; John S. and James L. Knight Foundation; Kapor Center for Social Impact; Nathan Cummings Foundation; Open Society Foundations; Robert Wood Johnson Foundation; and the W.K. Kellogg Foundation.