From Your Lobbyist: Support for Higher Ed Bill, Federal Funding Extended
November 25, 2019
Week of Nov 18-22
Bipartisan Higher Ed Bill Draws Support, Federal Funding Extended to Dec 20th
While comprehensive Higher Education Act reauthorization remains stalled in the Senate, one aspect of Higher Education Act regulations – the so-called 90/10 rule – may see an upgrade thanks to the introduction this week of bipartisan Senate legislation. Under the current iteration of the 90/10 rule, at least 10% of student tuition dollars must come from non-federal student aid. The purpose of this rule is to validate the quality of the higher education institutions that students attend by showing that those schools are not solely supported by federal dollars. Over the past few years, special attention has been paid to the fact that veterans’ federal GI Bill benefits and Department of Defense education funds count towards that 10% thereby allowing some veterans to pay all or nearly all of their tuition costs from federal funds, thereby creating a loophole to the 90/10 rule. As a result, many claim that veterans have been targeted by low-quality for-profit institutions who know that veterans can pay the full cost of their tuition with federal loans and grants. The Protect Veterans’ Education and Training Spending Act of 2019, authored by Senators Tom Carper (D-DE), James Lankford (R-OK), Bill Cassidy (R-LA) and Jon Tester (D-MT), would close this loophole by counting GI Bill benefits and Department of Defense education benefits as federal aid for purposes of the 90/10 rule. Following this bill’s introduction, Senate HELP Committee Chair Lamar Alexander (R-TN) announced his support for the bill, terming it “a responsible and reasonable step.”
Despite Congress making progress on the 90/10 loophole, it has thus far been unable to complete its work on reauthorizing approximately $85 million annually in annual funding for Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs). HELP Committee Chair Alexander continues to hold up legislation to reauthorize this program and others, the FUTURE Act, on the grounds that it should be considered as part of a full overhaul of the Higher Education Act. In September, Alexander objected to unanimous consent for the Senate’s passage of the FUTURE Act. This week, the FUTURE Act was not included in Congress’s second Continuing Resolution to continue funding the federal government until December 20th. In an October letter to Senate leadership, the Thurgood Marshall College Fund’s President and CEO expressed disappointment that Congress had failed to include the FUTURE Act in the first Continuing Resolution that expired at midnight on Friday: “While it is true that Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) are funded through the academic school year ending in April 2020, the expiration of this program as set forth in the plain language of 20 U.S.C. § 1067q, means that no more grants will be made available to HBCUs going forward and, as such, our institutions will be without the ability to preserve the status quo as it relates to the student programs and jobs supported by this funding.”
Lastly, amidst the chaos surrounding impeachment and the massive disagreements over border wall funding, Congress this week extended the short-term spending measure to Dec 20th––hopefully giving them time to pass the FY2020 appropriations bills that would fund the government through the year and avoiding a government shutdown before the holidays.
Needless to say, we must continue to pressure our members of the House to pass the College Affordability Act (CAA) and urge the Senate to also pass it so that it can be signed into law. Send your prewritten letter here!