House GOP effort to overhaul Higher Education Act would harm poor and middle-class students

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by Mary Ellen Flannery

An aggressive plan to transform higher education was released on Friday by U.S. Rep. Virginia Foxx (R-NC), chair of the House’s education committee, and much of the legislation would be harmful to poor and middle-class students and make it more difficult for Americans to get high-quality, affordable higher education.

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Called the Promoting Real Opportunity, Success and Prosperity through Education Reform (PROSPER) Act, the bill represents Foxx’s efforts to reauthorize the Higher Education Act (HEA).

Among its provisions are:

  • Caps on student loan borrowing. The bill would limit the amount of money that students and families could borrow from the federal government to pay for college. Instead of solving the student debt crisis, this likely would force borrowers into more expensive private loans, says National Education Association higher-ed policy analyst Mark Smith. “The solution is to invest directly in higher education as the rest of the world does,” says Smith.
  • Elimination of loan-forgiveness options. The federal Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) program helps teachers, firefighters, and other public-service workers afford a home and send their children to college. Without it, these careers become even less attractive to young people. NEA believes PSLF must be protected.
  • Roll back regulations on for-profit colleges. The regulations put into place by the Obama administration help ensure that students don’t end up with overwhelming debt and no prospect of employment.
  • Create new regulations for HBCUs. Even as the House bill eliminates rules for for-profit colleges, it creates new ones for Historically Black Colleges and Universities and Hispanic Serving Institutions. Specifically, it would require them to meet certain graduation rates or lose federal funding. “How about we focus instead on new ways to support these institutions?” asks Smith.
  • Repeal the definition of distance education. Last year, a federal investigation found that Western Governors University, a “competency-based” institution without faculty, did not meet the federal requirement for distance education and should return millions of dollars in federal aid. The House’s answer is to change the definition of distance education, so that real interaction between qualified instructors and students is no longer necessary.

Reader Comments

  1. need more trade and community college education to supply employees for middle class jobs. all need training and education but
    not all need upper college degrees. part time jobs and part time job education.

  2. The only loan business the government ought to be in is home loans for veterans. The government has no business loaning money to students. Anyone who takes a loan needs to practice due diligence and understand the terms of the loan, plan how they will repay the loan and make a rational decision as to what major area of study will allow repayment of any loans. I know lots of student-part time workers who do both and put in a lot of effort. The result is a recognition they don’t want to owe money to anyone and they learn hard work is the only way to make one’s way in the world. Not hoping some loan you take will be forgiven by a bunch of liberal, socialist legislators who think you were taken advantage of with predatory tactics. Unless there are extenuating circumstances, anyone stuck with a loan they can not repay is likely not intelligent enough to be enrolled in college. At least they are likely not enrolled in an area of study that is rigorous enough to allow entry into a career that will compensate them enough to repay the loan. Less government intervention will mean lower college costs in the long run. Maybe fewer illegal aliens in our schools would allow for lower costs.

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