This weekly report captures developments from the US executive and legislative branches related to higher education policy, and also includes relevant information such as reports and upcoming events.
Executive Branch Recap
- CDC Releases Updated Guidance for Reopening Higher Ed. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have released updated interim guidance for administrators of institutions of higher education, as colleges and universities are increasingly shifting their focus to reopening for the fall 2020 semester. The guidance is organized into three categories based on the level of community transmission: 1) when there is no community transmission, 2) when there is minimal to moderate community transmission, and 3) when there is substantial community transmission. The guidance encourages institutions with confirmed cases on campus to consider temporarily suspending classes and canceling large events and activities, in coordination with local public health officials, as a strategy to stop or slow the further spread of COVID-19. Overall, the guidance includes various guidance and recommendations including to disinfect campuses, provide services to students, and ensure continuity of education and research. Last week, Vice President Mike Pence, Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos, and White House Coronavirus Response Coordinator Dr. Deborah Birx held a call with various higher education leaders. During the call, the group discussed the CDC guidance as well as other best practices to get students back to school in the fall.
- Senate Democrats Introduce Public Service Loan Forgiveness Bill. This week, Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) and nine other Democratic Senators introduced legislation to reform the Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) program. The Strengthening Loan Forgiveness for Public Servants Act would amend the Higher Education Act (HEA) to allow for loan cancellation intervals based on the length of public service. Specifically, the bill provides for 15 percent cancellation at two years; an additional 15 percent at four years; an additional 20 percent at six years; an additional 20 percent at eight years; and the final 30 percent at 10 years. Under current law, borrowers must work in public service for 10 years while making payments in a qualifying repayment plan, or they receive no loan forgiveness. The legislation would also allow public servants to receive continued loan forgiveness during the length of the coronavirus emergency if they leave their job due to a furlough, illness, layoff, or for caregiving purposes. Any payment made during the period following the freeze on payments and interest established under the CARES Act would also count towards PSLF if the borrower reenters public service at the end of the public health emergency.
- The National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) has released their congressionally mandated annual report titled, Condition of Education. The report contains key indicators on the condition of education in the United States at all levels, from prekindergarten through postsecondary, as well as labor force outcomes and international comparisons. According to the report, the overall college enrollment rate for 18- to 24-year-olds at undergraduate or graduate institutions rose from 35 percent in 2000 to 41 percent in 2018. The report also shows educational attainment rates for 25- to 29-year-olds increased at all levels between 2000 and 2019.
- On Tuesday, May 26, at 11:00 AM EST, the National Academies of Science, Engineering, and Medicine will hold a virtual town hall discussion titled, “COVID-19 and the Mission of the U.S. Public University.”