Legislative Activity

Perkins CTE Act

Senators Mike Enzi (R-WY) and Bob Casey (D-PA) are working on a bill to rewrite the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act. The Perkins Act, which hasn’t been updated since 2006, sets policy on career and technical education. Lawmakers, including House Education and the Workforce Committee Chairman John Kline (R-MN), have for years discussed rewriting Perkins but it has often been pushed to the sidelines while education committees worked on other priorities such as The Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) (P.L. 114-95), which was signed into law last December. Next week, the House Education and the Workforce Committee will hold a hearing on strengthening the Perkins Act, chaired by Rep. Kline.

This Week’s Hearings:

  • On Tuesday, May 17,  the House Education and the Workforce Committee will hold a hearing titled “Helping Students Succeed by Strengthening the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act.”
  • On Wednesday, May 18, the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee will hold a hearing titled “ESSA (Every Student Succeeds Act) Implementation: Perspectives from Education Stakeholders.”

Regulatory Activity

Lower Interest Rates on Federal Student Loans.

Last week, the Department of the Treasury auctioned 10-year notes, determining that millions of students and families who borrow money from the federal government to pay for higher education will face lower interest rates in the coming academic year. The rate on federal student loans has been pegged to the financial markets since 2013, when President Barack Obama and Congress struck a compromise on how to reset the rates each year. For new undergraduate student loans, the interest rate will decrease to 3.76 percent, from the current 4.29 percent. The rate on direct loans for graduate students will fall to 5.31 percent, from this year’s 5.84 percent. The interest rates on PLUS loans, both for graduate students or parents taking on debt for their children’s education, will be 6.31 percent, down from the current 6.84 percent. The new interest rates take effect on July 1 for the 2016-2017 academic year. The changes do not affect borrowers who already have federal student loans.

New Tools for FAFSA Completion

The Department of Education’s Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) Completion Tool is now providing FAFSA completion rates for school districts, allowing communities to tailor communications, support, and counseling to students while helping schools monitor their progress. The tool was created to help financial aid professionals, school administrators, and guidance counselors track and increase FAFSA completion.  It also provides high schools whose students have completed five or more FAFSAs with information about how many applications were submitted and completed for the application year, as well as comparison data from past application years.

Students with Criminal Background

This week, speaking at the University of California at Los Angeles, Secretary of Education John King urged America’s colleges and universities to remove barriers that can prevent the estimated 70 million citizens with criminal records from pursuing higher education, including considering the effect of inquiring early in the application process whether prospective students have ever been arrested. In follow-up to this call, Secretary King issued a Dear Colleague letter to college and university leaders.  The Department also released a resource guide, which offers alternatives to inquiring about criminal histories during college admissions, provides recommendations to support a more holistic review of applicants, and presents strategies for supporting postsecondary persistence and completion for justice-involved individuals. The announcement follows a number of related efforts from the Obama Administration, including the Second Chance Pell Pilot program to test new ways for people in federal prison to use Pell Grants.

Title IX Guidance on Transgender Students

On Friday, May 13, the Departments of Education and Justice released guidance and a set of best practices regarding the civil rights of all transgender students under Title IX.  The guidance is largely aimed at answering the questions of students, parents, teachers and superintendents across K-12 schools as districts grapple with how to accommodate transgender students. According to the guidance, if a school, district, or state fails to comply with the Administration’s interpretation of the law, it runs the risk of being sued by the federal government and losing federal funding. The Department of Education has never pulled Title IX funding for an issue related to a transgender student.