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White House Unveils Higher Education Act Reauthorization Principles

The Trump administration is weighing in on the upcoming HEA reauthorization with a set of proposed reforms.

With congressional leaders on both sides of the aisle committed to crafting a bipartisan solution, the White House is proposing its own set of principles for lawmakers to consider in crafting the reauthorization of the Higher Education Act. The proposed principles are designed to provide more students access to a quality education, hold institutions accountable and help families make informed decisions about their education options. 

"Unfortunately, many colleges and universities have not been providing Americans the education they need to succeed in a cost-effective manner. Remarkably, student loan debt exceeds what Americans owe in credit card debt, auto loans or home equity loans. Members of Congress who are committed to ensuring Americans thrive in today's strong, modern and growing economy should support and pass these reforms," said White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders in a statement.

The Trump administration is looking for the HEA reauthorization to streamline the 10 standards of accreditation to focus on educational quality and student learning and to eliminate the "archaic distinction" between accreditors with a geographic scope and a mission-based scope. The White House proposal also encourages Congress to expand Pell Grant eligibility to include "high-quality, short-term programs" that provide students with a credential, certification or license in a high-demand field.

According to the White House proposal, the reauthorization of the HEA should also include reforms to the Federal Work Study program to support workforce and career-oriented opportunities for low-income undergraduate students. In addition, the Trump administration is looking to work with Congress to create a system that would require post-secondary institutions that accept taxpayer funds to share in the financial responsibility associated with student loans.

When it comes to innovation, the White House is looking to create a pilot program to increase access to market-driven workforce development programs. Investments should also be made in historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs). The White House is asking for the President's Board of Advisors on HBCUs and the Interagency Working Group responsible for improving the capacity of HBCUs to made permanent.

To reform student financial aid, the White House wants to consolidate the five income-driven repayment options to a single plan that caps the monthly payment at 12.5 percent of a borrower's income. The Trump administration is also advocating for extending loan forgiveness to all undergraduate students after 180 months of repayment through an income-driven repayment plan.

The White House also threw its support behind an idea similar to the College Transparency Act legislation that was announced last week. Under the White House proposal, the Department of Education would provide students program-level earnings outcome data from colleges and universities to help students make better informed choices.

Senate education committee Chairman Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) responded to the proposal: "I share the Administration's goals to make a college education worth it and to make it simpler to apply for federal student aid and pay back student loans. It is helpful to have these suggestions as I work with Sen. Patty Murray, the senior Democrat on the education committee, to develop bipartisan recommendations so that we can report legislation to the full Senate before summer."

"The White House's proposal is a feeble attempt to claim the Trump administration is helping students by identifying one symptom of rising student debt, while completely ignoring the root cause — that college costs are rising exponentially and most students can't afford college without taking on massive amounts of debt," commented Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA), ranking member of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee. "In fact, this proposal would end up hurting students by reducing the amount of federal aid for students and taking billions out of the pockets of borrowers. Chairman Alexander and I have agreed to work toward a comprehensive reauthorization that makes college more affordable, so I look forward to working with him to find real and serious solutions that actually help students afford higher education."

The full list of White House proposals to reform HEA can be found here.

About the Author

Sara Friedman is a reporter/producer for Campus Technology, THE Journal and STEAM Universe covering education policy and a wide range of other public-sector IT topics.

Friedman is a graduate of Ithaca College, where she studied journalism, politics and international communications.

Friedman can be contacted at [email protected] or follow her on Twitter @SaraEFriedman.

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