The National Adult Learner Coalition wrote a letter to US House of Representatives leadership of the House Committee on Education and the Workforce regarding H.R. 4508, Promoting Real Opportunity, Success, and Prosperity through Education Reform (PROSPER) Act, and our concerns. We are particularly concerned about this bill’s major structural changes to federal financial aid, and how adult learners may be impacted by it. While all the details of the bill have yet to be realized by many inside and outside of Congress, we are seeing widespread elimination of federal loan programs and other benefits, immediately causing the cost of an education to increase for a large number of current, past, and future students. We also address issues relating to adult learners like the 90-10 rule, prior learning assessment, and greater data and information measures. We are also concerned by the overall speed of the bill’s movement, without deliberate analysis or additional time for input from stakeholders.
National Adult Learner Coalition weighs in on PROSPER Act House HEA Legislation movement
UPCEA, along with the National Adult Learner Coalition, joined with many other higher education organizations to join in chorus to urge cautious and deliberative movement on the US House of Representative’s push for a re-authorization of the Higher Education Act, H.R. 4508, Promoting Real Opportunity, Success, and Prosperity through Education Reform (PROSPER) Act. The speed by which the legislation has been moving from initial release has not provided for proper analysis or input. Furthermore, the letter is concerned about the potential for the changes in this bill to cause the cost of higher education to go up for many families. There are also major concerns raised regarding the lack of safeguards the bill would create. It could open federal dollars to support programs with little or no protections for students or taxpayers.
UPCEA, along with ACE, and nearly 50 other higher education associations sent this letter to Senate Committee on Finance Chairman Orrin G. Hatch (R-UT) and Ranking Member Ron Wyden (D-OR) regarding the higher education provisions in the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (H.R. 1).
The groups write they are concerned about provisions in the bill that would negatively impact students and undermine institutions by reducing charitable giving, creating an unprecedented tax on private colleges and universities, increasing costs and the regulatory burden on many colleges and universities, reducing the ability to access tax-exempt bonds for capital projects, and threatening state investment in higher education.
The National Adult Learner Coalition, a group of organizations of which UPCEA is a founding member, wrote to Congressional leadership to express our concerns with H.R.1, the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, and its elimination of the Lifetime Learning Credit and Section 127 of the Internal Revenue Code.
Our organizations are focused on how the nation’s public policies can better support the adult learner. The economy depends more and more on having a skilled and adaptable workforce. But we cannot meet the talent needs of business and industry without more adults seeking—and attaining—postsecondary training and credentials. As a country we should be providing more support to low‐ and middle‐income workers who want to gain more skills to access high‐demand, high‐wage jobs. Instead, H.R. 1 is taking away some of the only financial incentives that help the adult learner pursue education and training – something that is critically needed for the nation’s overall economic competitiveness.
The Lifetime Learning Credit is being repealed in favor of a slight and inadequate expansion of the American Opportunity Tax Credit. The proposed AOTC does not provide a financial benefit for less than half‐time students. If tax credits are to be used to support the adult learner, they need to be designed in a way that reflects the reality of how adults engage in higher education. Adult learners are often working while learning, which means attending college part‐time and over several years. Section 127, meanwhile, has long been an important way for the federal government to incentivize employer investment in worker education. Without Section 127, employer‐provided tuition assistance would count as taxable income to the worker.
UPCEA joined with ACE and 44 other higher education associations to send this letter to House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Kevin Brady (R-TX) and Ranking Member Richard Neal (D-MA) on the higher education provisions in the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (H.R. 1).
The groups write that this legislation, taken in its entirety, would discourage participation in postsecondary education, make college more expensive for those who do enroll, and undermine the financial stability of public and private, two-year and four-year colleges and universities. According to the Committee on Ways and Means summary, the bill’s provisions would increase the cost to students attending college by more than $65 billion between 2018 and 2027.
UPCEA joined with HACU (Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities) and ACE (American Council on Education) along with other organizations to retain protections for those who are part of the DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) program until longer term solutions can be put into place. The letters call for the program to be retained and note the impact on our universities and society at large. These individuals had to have come to the country before the age of 16, be in, or have completed, high school or a GED, or be an honorably discharged veteran of the military. These bright and talented young people are working, serving in the armed services or studying at colleges and universities. Because they now have work permits, they are making contributions to our society and our economy. They are paying taxes and buying cars, homes, and consumer goods, which generates economic activity and increases tax revenue for federal, state and local governments. While they contribute significantly to our economy, they are ineligible for federal means-tested welfare benefits, Pell Grants and federal student loans, and health care tax subsidies. According to a recent study by the CATO Institute, deporting those currently in DACA would cost over $60 billion in lost tax revenue and result in a $280 billion reduction in economic growth over the next decade.
DACA protects over 800,000 individuals who have registered with the program. The Trump Administration has signaled in recent weeks that they may be taking some action on DACA in the coming weeks.
On the eve of the proposed date of implementation, the US Department of Education has delayed the Gainful Employment regulations until July 1, 2018, stating this is part of a fulfillment on their promise of reducing burdensome regulation. A federal register notice was issued announcing the delay. This delay will allow for institutions to have more time to comply with disclosure requirements originally due on July 1, 2017, regarding the distribution of gainful employment data to students and in promotional materials. In part, the notice cited a pending court case against cosmetology school as a reason why it will allow schools to file alternate earnings appeals into 2018. More details are expected in the coming month. Secretary Betsy DeVos has signalled recently that she hopes to see the Gainful Employment rule retooled through a negotiated rulemaking process.
US DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION — U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos today released the following statement on the Department’s Regulatory Reform Task Force’s first progress report as required by President Donald Trump’s Executive Order 13777:
“The Regulatory Reform Task Force has been hard at work over the last few months cataloguing over 150 regulations and more than 1,700 pieces of policy guidance on the books at the Department of Education. As their work continues, they have been tasked with providing recommendations on which regulations to repeal, modify or keep in an effort to ensure those that remain adequately protect students while giving states, institutions, teachers, parents and students the flexibility needed to improve student achievement.”
“To ensure an open and transparent process, the Task Force’s progress report will be published on the Department of Education’s website. I look forward to the Task Force’s continued work and to hearing from the public as we work to prioritize the needs of students over unnecessary and burdensome requirements.”
The Regulatory Reform Task Force is comprised of both political appointees and career civil servants at the Department of Education, and the public can read its progress report here.
The Department has also published a Federal Register notice to provide members of the public the opportunity to submit comments concerning regulations and policy guidance they recommend the Department review, modify or repeal. Comments are due by August 21, 2017.
Contact: (202) 401-1576, firstname.lastname@example.org
US DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION – WASHINGTON—Today, U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos announced Year Round Pell grants will be available to students beginning July 1, 2017. This policy change will ensure hundreds of thousands of college students have the resources needed to finish their coursework in a timeframe that meets their individual needs.
“This decision is about empowering students and giving them the flexibility and support needed to achieve their goals,” said Secretary DeVos. “Expanding access to the Pell program, so that students who need additional resources can graduate more quickly and with less debt, is the right thing to do.”
This change in the Federal Pell Grant Program will allow an eligible student to receive up to 150 percent of the student’s Federal Pell Grant Scheduled Award beginning with the 2017–2018 award year.
To be eligible for the additional Pell Grant funds, the student must be otherwise eligible to receive Pell Grant funds for the payment period and must be enrolled at least half-time. For a student who is eligible for the additional Pell Grant funds, the institution must pay the student all of the student’s eligible Pell Grant funds, up to 150 percent of the student’s Pell Grant Scheduled Award for the award year.
Unless the student has remaining eligibility from the 2016-2017 award year, the Department strongly recommends that institutions award Pell Grant funds for this summer out of the 2017-2018 award year since the additional funding will be available later in the year (e.g., spring or summer of 2018).
Although institutions have the flexibility to assign crossover payment periods to either of the relevant award years, the new law provides that an institution must make the assignment “as it determines is most beneficial to students.” Therefore, that decision should be based on what is in the best interest of the student and maximizes the student’s eligibility over the two award years.
For more information please see the Dear Colleague Letter on the Implementation of Year-Round Pell Grants by clicking here.
As part of this commitment, the groups urged Congress to reject the Trump administration’s potentially devastating cuts to financial aid and research programs outlined in the president’s FY 2018 budget proposal released last month.
The Trump plan would cut more than $150 billion from student aid programs, leaving students to borrow more to access college and to pay more for those loans. It also proposes to eliminate billions in research funding, including $7.2 billion at the National Institutes of Health (NIH). That cut is coupled with massive cuts at many other research agencies, with early analysis indicating an overall cut to research funding of 17 percent.
The continuing threat of sequestration: Along with the administration’s proposals, the federal investment in higher education is also under threat by discretionary spending caps negotiated back in 2011 under the Budget Control Act (BCA). That law ended the country’s 2011 debt ceiling crisis, raising the ceiling and creating budget caps to limit spending over 10 years, with separate caps for defense aimed to reduce spending by $1 trillion by 2021.
The BCA has been modified three times since its enactment; most recently, the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2015 raised the cap for fiscal years 2016 and 2017 and gave a boost to defense. Without another statutory correction, FY 2018 non-defense discretionary funding will be reduced by $3 billion below FY 2017 levels.
As the groups pointed out in their letter, despite the support of Congress over the last few years, many student aid and scientific research programs remain below their FY 2011 funding levels when adjusted for inflation. Further reductions would “disproportionately harm the programs that are proven to provide the most effective pathways for low-income and other working Americans to move up the economic ladder and build and maintain economic prosperity.”
Congress signals support: Last month, Congress finalized a FY 2017 omnibus appropriations measure that expanded the Pell Grant program for low- and middle-income students and provided $2 billion in additional funding for NIH research. These increases, along with continued funding support for critical student aid and scientific research programs, illustrate the strong bipartisan support that exists for these programs. Forty Senate Democrats and fifteen Senate Republicans, led by Sens. Bob Casey (D-PA) and Richard Burr (D-NC), followed up with a letter May 24 to Senate appropriators requesting continuation of this strong commitment to NIH funding in FY 2018.
In a Senate appropriations subcommittee hearing yesterday, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos faced open criticism from Republicans as well as Democrats as she testified on the Trump administration’s budget proposal. In opening remarks, subcommittee chair Roy Blunt (R-MO) called the request “difficult to defend” and that Congress was unlikely to pass the kinds of cuts the president proposed. (For more details on that hearing, see Inside Higher Ed and The Chronicle of Higher Education.)
The House is expected to pass its FY 2018 funding bills before the August recess, though a timeline for Senate action is unclear. The federal fiscal year ends on Sept. 30, but Congress has not met that deadline in recent years, instead passing extensions into the new fiscal year.