The House Committee on Education and the Workforce today approved a package of bipartisan bills aimed at helping students and their families make well-informed decisions about enrolling in and paying for college.
"These pieces of legislation will help to give students more and better information when considering and financing college," said Rep. George Miller (D-Calif.), senior emocrat on the committee. For the first time, borrowers, whether they are sophomores or seniors, will have a clear roadmap to repayment for navigating their college financing decisions. They will always know how much they have borrowed, how interest will accrue, a projection of what they will borrow through their college career, and their monthly repayment obligations."
The three bills passed through committee today begin to improve transparency in college costs, strengthen financial counseling for students and parents, and explore innovative ways of measuring completion of coursework, which reduce college costs and shorten time to degree.
The Strengthening Transparency in Higher Education Act (H.R. 4983) creates a new "College Dashboard," a tool for students to decide for themselves if a college has a good track record and is right for them. The dashboard will provide students and their families helpful information about each college, including: enrollment numbers, completion data for full-time and part-time students, net cost of attendance, average student loan debt and repayment rates, and transparency on the school's use of adjunct faculty. Democrats successfully fought to strengthen H.R. 4983 by including language to ensure that schools are being transparent about their reliance and treatment of adjunct faculty. This information is an important first step towards addressing the unfair treatment of many adjunct faculty.
The Empowering Students Through Enhanced Financial Counseling Act (H.R. 4984) strengthens financial counseling for students and their families to better understand the economics of taking on student debt before they sign up for a loan.
The Advancing Competency-Based Education Demonstration Project Act (H.R. 3136) will provide students new opportunities to complete their education in ways that best serves their personal and financial needs.
With nearly 40 million Americans struggling to repay $1.2 trillion in student loan debt, Democrats pushed for legislative amendments that would make higher education more affordable and combat soaring student debt.
"This country is facing a student loan crisis, and these bills, unfortunately, fail to address the needs of students and families already facing a mountain of student debt," said Rep. Miller.
Rep. John Tierney (D-Mass.) introduced an amendment to H.R. 3136 to provide nearly five million student loan borrowers with much-needed relief. The Tierney amendment would have enabled these borrowers to refinance their debt into today's lower interest rates, thus saving American families over $50 billion, but it was voted down along strict partisan lines
"My amendment today was based on legislation that I filed with Senator Elizabeth Warren and Ranking Member Miller and supported by over 125 House Members," said Rep. Tierney. "The amendment would have simply provided existing student loan borrowers the opportunity to responsibly refinance their existing loans to the same low rate being offered to new borrowers in the student loan program. Homeowners and businesses are often able to refinance their debts, and I believe student loan borrowers should be able to do the same. While Republicans blocked this important amendment, Committee Democrats will continue to fight to bring down loan rates for students and middle-class families."
Despite the failure of the Tierney amendment, Rep. Miller called on Congress to "seize the bipartisan momentum" from today's markup and do more to rein in ballooning college costs and student debt.
"With few legislative days left in this Congress, it is unconscionable that we would not take action on this problem," said Miller. "We must move quickly and decisively to make college more accessible and affordable, to increase oversight and quality assurance of colleges and loan servicers, and to promote new and innovative practices that can reduce student loan debt. And this can only happen through a full-scale rewrite of the Higher Education Act."