AYA Meets with House Members to Save PSLF Program
June 22, 2018
On June 13th, AYA met with 7 members of the House Education and the Workforce Committee to talk about preserving the Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) program in the PROSPER Act. The PSLF program makes college more affordable by forgiving the student loan debt of individuals who have served ten years in qualifying public service employment while paying off their student loans. This program also helps young Americans serve their communities by taking the less lucrative––but critically important––public sector jobs like teaching, medicine, and public interest law, which often require higher graduate degrees. The PROSPER Act would eliminate this program and right now the author of the bill is continuing to push House Republican leaders to bring it before the full House for final passage.
Who We Met With and What We Learned
Ally Bernstein, AYA’s lobbyist, and AYA founder Ben Brown met with the offices of Committee Chairwoman Foxx (R-NC) and Representatives Estes (R-KS), Lewis, (R-MN), Guthrie (R-KY), Grothman (R-WI), Ferguson (R-GA), and Byrne (R-AL) to explain the importance of PSLF to young Americans. We shared that 3,000 AYA members wrote to Congress urging Congress to preserve the program in a final bill. We underscored for them how PLSF makes college affordable for millions of young Americans who want to serve their communities without having the dark reality of debt hanging over their heads for a majority of their lives. Additionally, we shared many stories drawn from AYA member letters that describe how PSLF allowed them to become teachers, doctors, and public interest lawyers and how, without it, they would not have been able to make those career choices.
During the meetings, we learned that there are some House members who believe that loan forgiveness is a main factor in driving college costs up. Their argument is that colleges have no incentive to lower costs if the government is going to subsidize student loans after ten years. According to our research, though, there is no evidence that PSLF leads to rising tuition. In fact, a study of law school tuition shows that the average law student’s tuition has declined since PSLF went into effect in October 2007. AYA along with many higher education groups believe that tuition is actually driven by supply and demand in a marketplace of competing institutions. Further, we believe that most tuition increases have occurred at public schools and have been caused by declining state subsidies––not by the creation of loan forgiveness programs.
We also learned that despite casting votes in favor of the bill during the committee mark-up process, many Republican members remain disappointed with the legislative process and feel that the PROSPER Act was not drafted with their input. Several Republican members expressed to us their unhappiness with the bill’s elimination of PSLF indicated that they’d be open to reinstating PSLF in some form or finding ways to improve the program. This gives us hope that PSLF will be included in a final bill.
What’s Next for PROSPER?
Without any support from House Democrats and with many House Republicans indicating to House leadership that they would vote “no” on the bill, it seems clear that Chairwoman Foxx (R-NC) lacks the votes to pass this bill in the House now. Democrats are united in their opposition to moving the bill forward, taking issue with the extremely partisan Committee process that produced it and the $15 billion it cuts in student aid and loan programs it contains. Thus, right now the bill’s chances of going to the floor are slim to none. Given that the fall midterm elections are looming, it is unlikely that House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) would force his Republican members to take a hard vote on a higher education bill that many of them do not support.
From Your Lobbyist, Ally Bernstein
Keep up the great work everyone, you are making a difference! It is because of your calls, tweets, and letters that members of Congress on both sides of the aisle are pushing back against PROSPER to prevent its passage. On the issue of preserving PSLF, they have heard from hundreds of thousands of constituents, including those enrolled in the program and from dozens of college presidents. The advocacy is working––right now there are not enough “yes” votes for PROSPER and we need to keep it that way. While there may be some good things that the PROSPER Act does (like make the FAFSA form simpler), that good does not outweigh the bad (like the elimination of PSLF and cuts to student aid). I encourage you to keep calling, writing, and tweeting about the importance of preserving PSLF and urging your members to vote “no” on PROSPER.