From Your Lobbyist: What the Election Results Mean for Higher Ed
November 7, 2018
Here what we think will change in the Higher Education world as a result of the Midterms Elections.
As your lobbyist, I am extremely proud of every single one of you, no matter what side of the aisle you are on, for being the best possible advocates for yourselves and going to the polls in record numbers. The results of last night’s election ended a one-party rule in Washington and we now have a Democratic House and Republican Senate. Having a two-party Congress means the landscape for higher education in Congress will be a bit different. With so many higher education issues still at play in this Congress and which will likely bleed into the next Congress, AYA will continue to work across both sides of the aisle to advocate for student loan debt relief, financial aid, and institutional accountability on behalf of our members.
Here is our analysis of how the federal landscape will change as a result of the Midterm Elections whereby Democrats regained control of the House while Republicans maintained the majority in Senate:
Reauthorization of the Higher Education Act (HEA): With Democrats now controlling the House, it is safe to say that the PROSPER Act, which if passed would have cut $15 billion in student aid and would have eliminated the PSLF program, will not see the light of day again. Ranking member of the House Education and the Workforce Committee Bobby Scott (D-VA) is likely become Chairman of the Committee and there is a strong chance he will re-introduce the Aim Higher Act, the Democratic version of an HEA rewrite. That bill will protect Public Service Loan Forgiveness and prevent Congress from repealing rules that protect students from unscrupulous and fraudulent for-profit colleges. Even if Aim Higher moves through the House, it faces an uncertain future in the Senate. Since Republicans retained control of the Senate, HELP Committee Chairman Lamar Alexander (R-TN) will remain at the helm of the Committee and will likely introduce his own version of HEA reauthorization. The Senate bill is going to differ a great deal from Aim Higher, particularly on the availability of student loans, and, if it managed to pass, there would have to be the mother-of-all conferences to negotiate a final bill given the extreme differences in the Republican Senate and Democratic House bills.
Oversight: Now that the Democrats control the House, it is expected that the new House Education and the Workforce Chairman will expend a great deal of effort on conducting oversight hearings focused on current Department of Education rulemakings in higher education. The Committee would is likely going to hold the Department’s feet to the fire on its controversial rewrites of rules governing for profit institutions, including: whether federal student loan borrowers are protected from continuing to repay loans if these institutions committed fraud against them; and whether federal rules that aim to assure that students receiving degrees from for profits are gainfully employed in their professions after graduation.
Appropriations: Democratic control of the House means that passing funding bills with severe cuts to domestic programs will be much harder and could result in major gridlock for the appropriations process. That being said, House Dems and Republicans generally support funding for programs that AYA advocates for like the Pell Grant, dual enrollment, and federal work study, which would likely continue to receive level funding, and possibly even see slight increases in fiscal year 2020 if there is a deal to raise the federal spending caps. If there is no deal to raise the federal spending caps, Democrats will likely use every tactic to block spending measures that make severe cuts to education and other domestic spending programs.
Institutional Accountability: As for the gubernatorial races, it is likely that Democratic governors and their attorney generals will continue their efforts to preserve the existing borrower defense rules. On the heels of a multistate campaign led by the Massachusetts and California Attorney Generals to prevent Secretary DeVos from blocking the borrower defense rules from taking effect, newly elected Democratic state attorney generals might also step into the arena and demand loan relief for their states’ students affected by predatory lending.
As I noted in my recent Op-Ed in Girlboss urging all Young Americans to go out and vote, political engagement doesn’t stop at voting––it means advocacy too––and AYA will continue to provide all of the tools necessary as we continue the uphill battle to improve the higher education systems for millions of Americans.
Voting is how we get the representatives we want. Lobbying is how we make sure they do what we want.