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Monday, March 27, 2017

House, Senate Education Committees Request Education Department Take Steps to Assist Students While Student Aid Tool Is Unavailable

Here is an update from Christen Neher, our Legislative Relations Chair.



 

 
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE 
CONTACT: Press Office
March 27, 2017
(202) 226-9440
 
House, Senate Education Committees Request Education Department Take Steps to Assist Students While Student Aid Tool Is Unavailable
Letter emphasizes importance of protecting taxpayer and student privacy, expresses concern for students and families unable to use IRS tool for weeks

 

WASHINGTON, D.C. –
Reps. Virginia Foxx (R-NC) and Bobby Scott (D-VA), chair and ranking member of the House Committee on Education and the Workforce, respectively; Sens. Lamar Alexander (R-TN) and Patty Murray (D-WA), the chair and ranking member of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee, respectively; and 39 additional members of the Senate and House Education committees sent a letter to Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos asking the department to take action to help alleviate complications for students impacted by the current outage of the Internal Revenue Service’s Data Retrieval Tool (DRT).

“On March 9, 2017, the U.S. Department of Education (Department) and the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) issued a joint press release announcing the temporary suspension of the IRS Data Retrieval Tool (DRT) due to privacy concerns. Protecting taxpayer and student privacy is vitally important, and we are concerned about any potential attempts to misuse sensitive information. However, we also are concerned about the students and families who will not be able to use the tool for weeks,” said the Members of Congress in the letter.

“Millions of students and families use this important tool when filling out their Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) and borrowers utilize the DRT when certifying or recertifying their incomes for income-driven repayment (IDR) plans. In both cases, the DRT allows for the more efficient and accurate transfer of federal tax return information electronically, which in turn enables students, families, and borrowers to complete these processes more easily. While individuals can complete FAFSA and IDR applications through alternatives to the DRT, the current outage will lead to additional burden for individuals filling out their FAFSA or IDR applications. The absence of the DRT could also delay students’ federal, state, and institutional financial aid and loan repayment assistance.”

The House and Senate leaders also requested that the department take several specific steps to help make students, families, borrowers, student loan servicers, and institutions of higher education aware of the outage and advise them on navigating the process while the DRT is unavailable.
 
The IRS’ DRT tool allows students to access their tax information from the IRS and directly input it into the FAFSA. Reps. Foxx and Scott and Sens. Alexander and Murray have also requested a briefing from the Department of Education on the steps the department is taking to remedy the situation for students, borrowers, and parents, as well as what the department is doing to protect students’ data privacy and security.

The full letter is available here.

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This Week in Legislation - Week of March 27, 2017




Week of March 27, 2017

·         This week, both the U.S. House and U.S. Senate are in session for legislative business. However, neither chamber is expected to consider student financial aid-related legislation.


·         Today through Wednesday, all day, Academic Impressions hosts a hands-on skills training conference titled, “Customer Service Skills Training: Certification for Higher Education” in Boston, MA. At this conference, which is designed for both managers and front-line staff working in the areas of enrollment and student services, attendees will learn how to provide better customer service and leave with increased confidence in their customer service skills, as well as a heightened ability to handle a wide variety of service scenarios.

·         On Tuesday at 9:30 a.m., the Senate Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs Committee holds a hearing entitled, “Fostering Economic Growth: The Role of Financial Companies.” Witnesses include: The Honorable Robert Heller, Former Governor, Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System; The Honorable Donald Powell, Former Chairman, Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation; The Honorable William Spriggs, Economics Professor and Howard University and Chief Economist, AFL-CIO; and Deyanira Del Rio, Co-Director, The New Economy Project.

·         On Tuesday at 12:30 p.m., the Center for American Progress (CAP) and TeachStrong host a panel discussion on how states, districts, and colleges of education are leading the way in improving the systems designed to support teachers at every stage of their careers. Rep. Susan Davis (D-CA), Ranking Member of the House Education and the Workforce Subcommittee on Higher Education and Workforce Development, will provide the keynote address and discuss a bill she introduced to elevate the teaching profession through innovations in teacher recruitment and retention, as well as the potential impact of President Donald Trump’s proposed budget cuts on the ability of states and districts to adequately train, compensate, and support their teacher workforce. Other participants in the event include: Cheryl Holcomb-McCoy, Dean, School of Education, American University; Tonia Holmes-Sutton, Director, Network to Transform Teaching, Clark County, Nevada; Melody Schopp, Secretary of Education, South Dakota, Board of Directors President, Council of Chief State School Officers; and moderator Dyan Smiley, Assistant Director of Educational Issues, American Federation of Teachers.

·         On Tuesday at 12:50 p.m., Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen gives a speech titled, “Addressing Workforce Development Challenges in Low-Income Communities,” at the National Community Reinvestment Coalition Annual Conference.


·         On Tuesday at 2:00 p.m., the House Financial Services Subcommittee on Financial Institutions and Consumer Credit holds a hearing entitled “The State of Bank Lending in America.” Witnesses include: Scott Heitkamp, President and Chief Executive Officer, ValueBank Texas, on behalf of the Independent Community Bankers of America; Holly Wade, Director, Research and Policy Analysis, National Federation of Independent Businesses; David Motley, President, Colonial Companies, on behalf of the Mortgage Bankers Association; and Michael Calhoun, President, Center for Responsible Lending.


·         On Tuesday at 4:30 p.m., Federal Reserve Member Jerome Powell gives a speech titled, “America’s Central Bank: This History and Structure of the Federal Reserve,” at the West Virginia University College of Business and Economics in Morgantown, WV.


·         On Wednesday at 10:00 a.m., the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee holds a hearing titled, “Closing the Skills Gap and Boosting U.S. Competitiveness,” which will explore the technical skills gap in the manufacturing sector and other trades and  highlight steps taken by advocates and industry to address the growing issue and foster a competitive workforce. Witnesses include: John Ratzenberger, Actor, Director, Founder of the American Museum of Manufacturing; Rory DeJohn, Senior Vice President, Turner Construction Company; Colonel Michael Cartney (USAF, retired), President, Lake Area Technical Institute; Jay Neely, Vice President of Law and Public Affairs, Gulfstream Aerospace; and Judith Marks, Chief Executive Officer, Siemens USA.


·         On Wednesday at 2:30 p.m., the Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee holds a hearing entitled, “The Effect of Borrowing on Federal Spending: Federal Spending Oversight and Emergency Management.” Witnesses include: The Honorable David Walker, Former Comptroller General of the United States, U.S. Government Accountability Office; Dr.  Veronique de Rugy, Senior Research Fellow, The Mercatus Center, George Mason University; and Dr.  Mark Zandi, Chief Economist, Moody’s Analytics.

·         On Thursday at 10:00 a.m., the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) releases its 2017 Long-Term Budget Outlook. The long-term projections, which typically span 30 years, are consistent with CBO’s current 10-year budget and economic projections released in January. The agency last released detailed long-term budget projections in July 2016 and issued a partial update in January 2017.

 

This information is shared by SASFAA's Legislative Affairs' Committee and NCHER.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Witnesses Urge Congress to Streamline, Simplify Federal Student Aid System


 


 

 
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE 
CONTACT: Press Office
March 21, 2017
(202) 226-9440
 
Witnesses Urge Congress to Streamline,
Simplify Federal Student Aid System
 

 
WASHINGTON, D.C. – The Subcommittee on Higher Education and Workforce Development, chaired by Rep. Brett Guthrie (R-KY), held a hearing today to discuss reauthorization of the Higher Education Act (HEA), focusing on ways to streamline and simplify federal student aid.

“Over the years, the federal student aid system has become too complex,” Chairman Guthrie said. “Students and their families are forced to navigate six different types of federal student loans, nine different repayment plans, eight different forgiveness programs, and 32 deferment and forbearance options — each with its own rules and requirements … We need to get rid of the complexity. We need to eliminate the confusion students face.”

Witnesses agreed — highlighting the importance of simplifying, updating, and improving federal student aid so students have access to an affordable postsecondary education.

JoEllen Soucier has worked as a financial aid administrator and currently serves as the executive director of financial aid for the Houston Community College System. Through the years, she said, she watched as the student aid process grew more complex.

“I have seen the complexity of the student application process and the administration of federal financial aid programs increase greatly over the past 25 years,” she said. “The entire process from application to repayment has become an intricate puzzle that only a seasoned professional, like myself, can navigate and understand.”

Soucier said reauthorizing HEA provides an opportunity to make positive improvements that will help students and their families navigate the student aid process.

“Done in a deliberate, careful way, moving toward simplification and streamlining of the entire system will have a positive impact on students, families, financial aid administrators, educators, and the community,” she said.

Education policy expert Kristin D. Conklin explained how the student aid system is outdated and must be reformed to better accommodate the unique needs of contemporary students.

“Today’s students are older, they juggle work and family while attending school part time, and 47 percent support themselves financially, with 42 percent living in poverty,” Conklin said. “A simplified federal financial aid system needs to be seen as part of the solution for a nation that needs many more skilled graduates, a stronger middle class and more opportunity.”

Matthew M. Chingos, senior fellow at the Urban Institute, explained how many previous student aid reforms have not been entirely effective because they do not target the students who need help the most.

“The prevailing media narrative of a broad-based student loan crisis is problematic because it leads to the wrong policy solutions by focusing on all borrowers — and especially borrowers with the most debt — rather than on those who most need the help,” he said. “The current programs, which resulted from well-intentioned policy changes over many years, need to be streamlined and returned to their core missions: grants to needy students and loans that enable students to invest in their future success.”

Higher education provides many Americans with an important pathway to fulfilling careers and a lifetime of success. Streamlining, updating, and improving the federal student aid system will play an important role in ensuring higher education is more accessible and affordable.

“Simplifying federal student aid is just one principle in the comprehensive framework that will guide our work to strengthen higher education, but it’s a critical one,” Chairman Guthrie said. “Doing so will provide students and their families a more timely, clearer picture of the financial assistance they are eligible to receive. It will ensure taxpayer dollars are supporting those students who need help the most. And, perhaps most importantly, it will help more Americas realize that the dream of a higher education is within reach.”

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Monday, March 20, 2017

This Week in Legislation - Week of March 20, 2017



Week of March 20, 2017

·       This week, both the U.S. House and U.S. Senate are in session for legislative business. However, neither chamber is expected to consider student financial aid-related legislation.
 

·       On Tuesday at 10:00 a.m., the House Education and the Workforce Subcommittee on Higher Education and Workforce Development holds a hearing entitled, “Improving Federal Student Aid to Better Meet the Needs of Students.” Witnesses will be announced at a later date.

·       On Tuesday at 10:00 a.m., the House Financial Services Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations holds a hearing titled, “The Bureau of Consumer Financial Protection’s Unconstitutional Design.” The hearing will examine whether the structure of the Bureau violates the Constitution, as well as structural changes to the Bureau to resolve any constitutional infirmities. Witnesses include: The Honorable Theodore Olson, Partner, Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher LLP; Saikrishna Prakash, James Monroe Distinguished Professor, University of Virginia School of Law; Adam White, Research Fellow, Hoover Institution; and Brianne Gorod, Chief Counsel, Constitutional Accountability Center.
 

·       On Tuesday at 12:00 p.m., the Urban Institute holds a webinar titled, “Realizing Community Colleges’ Potential and Ensuring a Path to the Middle Class.” As technology advances, employers demand different skills, and the cost of a four-year degree rises, community colleges are a crucial gateway to postsecondary credentials. But can they meet demand? In this webinar, Cheryl Hyman, Chancellor of City Colleges of Chicago, discusses how community colleges can ensure more students find success, using lessons from City Colleges’ Reinvention initiative.


·       On Wednesday at 8:30 a.m., The Atlantic convenes key policymakers, state leaders, administrators, stakeholders, and experts for a robust discussion about the future of postsecondary education policy titled, “Higher Education at a Crossroads.” Participants include: Sheila Bair, President, Washington College; Ben Cannon, Executive Director, Oregon Higher Education Coordinating Commission; Peter McPherson, President, Association of Public and Land Grant Universities; Eloy Oakley, Chancellor, California Community Colleges; Margaret Spellings, President, University of North Carolina System; and Ron Brownstein, Senior Editor, The Atlantic.

·       On Thursday at 8:45 a.m., Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen delivers opening remarks at the 2017 Federal Reserve System Community Development Research Conference, which convenes researchers, policymakers, and practioners across sectors to consider important issues that low- and moderate-income people and communities face.

·       On Thursday at 9:30 a.m., the Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee holds a confirmation hearing on the nomination of Jay Clayton of New York to serve as the chair and member of the Securities and Exchange Commission.

 

·       On Thursday at 10:30 a.m., the FCC holds an open meeting to consider a notice of proposed rulemaking and notice of inquiry that would enable voice service providers to better protect subscribers from illegal and fraudulent robocalls. The proposed rule allows providers to block spoofed robocalls when the subscriber to a particular telephone number requests that calls originating from that number may be blocked, a proposal that came out of the industry’s Robocall Strike Force. It also allows providers to block spoofed calls when the spoofed caller ID cannot possibly be valid, including numbers that have no been assigned to anyone yet, and seeks special comment on how to address spoofing from internationally-originated numbers.


   
This information is shared by SASFAA's Legislative Affairs' Committee and NCHER.
 

Alexander, Murray, Foxx, Scott Request Briefing from Department of Education on FAFSA Data Retrieval Tool Outage

Below is an update from Christen Neher, Legislative Relations Chair.




 

 
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE 
CONTACT: Press Office
March 16, 2017
(202) 226-9440
 
Alexander, Murray, Foxx, Scott Request
Briefing from Department of Education on FAFSA
Data Retrieval Tool Outage
In letter, chairs and ranking members of Senate and House education committees request information regarding weeks-long outage of IRS’ Data Retrieval Tool that makes it easier for students to apply for financial aid

 

WASHINGTON, D.C. –
Sens. Lamar Alexander (R-TN) and Patty Murray (D-WA), the chair and ranking member of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee, respectively, and Reps. Virginia Foxx (R-NC) and Bobby Scott (D-VA), chair and ranking member of the House Committee on Education and the Workforce, respectively,sent a letter to Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos today asking for more information about the cause and scope of the outage of the Internal Revenue Services’ Data Retrieval Tool (DRT).

“We appreciate the initial actions taken by the U.S. Department of Education (Department) and the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) to address this issue, and we are writing to obtain further information about the cause and scope of the outage and the steps the Department and the IRS will take to assist students and families that are impacted,” said the members of Congress in the letter.

“The availability of the [Data Retrieval Tool] saves families and individuals time, streamlines the application process, and improves accuracy of applications. Unfortunately, the DRT appears to have been unavailable since the end of the first week in March, and the joint statement indicates that it will be “several weeks” until the DRT will be back online. The loss of the DRT could discourage many eligible low-income students from applying for aid or IDR plans altogether.”

The IRS’ DRT tool allows students to access their tax information from the IRS and directly input it into their Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). Sens. Alexander and Murray and Reps. Foxx and Scott are requesting a briefing from the Department of Education on the steps the department is taking to remedy the situation for students, borrowers, and parents, and what the department is doing to protect students’ data privacy and security.

The full letter is available here.

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Monday, March 13, 2017

This Week in Legislation - Week of March 13, 2017



 
Week of March 13, 2017


·         This week, both the U.S. House and U.S. Senate are in session for legislative business. However, neither chamber is expected to consider student financial aid-related legislation.

·         On Tuesday and Wednesday, all day, the Federal Reserve holds a two-day meeting of its Federal Open Market Committee. The minutes for each regularly scheduled meeting of the committee, which include a description of economic and financial conditions, are made available three weeks after its policy decisions are posted in the Federal Reserve Board’s Annual Report.

·         On Tuesday at 12:00 p.m., the Aspen Institute College Excellence Program awards the 2017 Aspen Prize for Community College Excellence, the nation's preeminent recognition of high achievement and improvement in America's community colleges.

·         On Wednesday at 10:00 a.m., the House Education and the Workforce Subcommittee on Higher Education and Workforce Development holds a hearing entitled, “Improving Federal Student Aid to Better Meet the Needs of Students.” Witnesses will be announced at a later date.

·         On Wednesday at 10:30 a.m., the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies holds a hearing entitled, “STEM Education: Preparing Students for the Careers of Today and the Future.” Witnesses include: Sarah Tucker, Ph.D., Chancellor, West Virginia Council for Community and Technical College Education; Larry Plank, Ed.S., Director of K-12 Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics Education, Hillsborough County Public Schools; Neil Lamb, Ph.D., Vice President for Educational Outreach, HudsonAlpha Institute for Biotechnology; and Caroline King, Chief Policy and Strategy Officer, Washington STEM.

·         On Thursday at 10:00 a.m., the House Financial Services Subcommittee on Monetary Policy and Trade holds a hearing entitled, “Sound Monetary Policy.” Witnesses will be announced at a later date.


·         On Thursday at 2:00 p.m., insideARM hosts a webinar titled, “An Insider’s Guide to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s (CFPB) New Complaint Portal.” Former CFPB Senior Advisor Jim McCarthy will: (1) highlight key risk areas for compliance professionals to track and address; (2) suggest risk mitigation strategies for companies affected by the CFPB’s complaint portal; and (3) expose any added risk the new portal presents to companies in the credit and collection industry.

·         On Friday at 9:00 a.m., the American Enterprise Institute (AEI) hosts a panel discussion titled, “Improving Economic Opportunity in America: A Discussion with Raj Chetty.” Dr. Chetty, the recipient of a MacArthur “genius” award and the John Bates Clark Medal, will talk about his Equality of Opportunity Project that has focused on detailing the state of the American dream and learning from cities, neighborhoods, and schools that have managed to foster upward mobility to inform public policy. After the discussion, AEI will host a panel discussion with: Dr. Raj Chetty, Professor of Economics, Stanford University; Robert Doar, Morgridge Fellow in Poverty Studies, AEI; Jason Furman, Senior Fellow, Peterson Institute for International Economics, and Melissa Kearney, Professor of Economics,University of Maryland.


This information is shared by SASFAA's Legislative Affairs' Committee and NCHER.
 

Monday, March 6, 2017

This Week in Legislation - Week of March 6, 2017



Week of March 6, 2017
 

·         This week, both the U.S. House and U.S. Senate are in session for legislative business. However, neither chamber is expected to consider student financial aid-related legislation.

·         On Tuesday at 3:00 p.m., the Federal Reserve releases its “Consumer Credit – G.19” report, which includes the amount of outstanding federal and private student loans. 

·         On Wednesday at 8:30 a.m., the National Institute for Lobbying and Ethics hosts House Budget Committee Ranking Member John Yarmuth (D-KY) who will brief attendees on budget issues facing this session of Congress.

·         On Wednesday at 10:00 a.m., the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies holds a hearing to receive testimony from members of the public on their priorities for the fiscal year 2018 appropriations bill. Witnesses will be announced at a later date.

·         On Wednesday at 10:00 a.m., the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee holds a hearing entitled, “Oversight of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC).” As part of the committee’s oversight responsibilities, the hearing will have a broad scope covering every aspect of the agency and major policy issues before the commission. Witnesses include: The Honorable Ajit Pai, Chairman, FCC; The Honorable Mignon Clyburn, Commissioner, FCC; and The Honorable Michael O’Rielly, Commissioner, FCC.

·         On Wednesday at 12:00 p.m., the National Adult Learner Coalition hosts an event titled, “Adult Learners and the Economy,” to discuss how changes in federal policy can help adult learners overcome the challenges they face, which will ultimately create a stronger workforce in the future. Participants include: Anthony Carnevale, Research Professor and Director, McCourt School of Public Policy at the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce; John Cavanaugh, President and Chief Executive Officer, Consortium of Universities of the Washington Metropolitan Area; and Monique Wardrick, adult learner, veteran, and recent graduate, University of Maryland University College.

·         On Wednesday at 2:00 p.m., the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Financial Services and General Government holds a hearing to receive testimony from Members of Congress on their funding priorities for the fiscal year 2018 appropriations bill. The subcommittee has jurisdiction over the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, FCC, Federal Trade Commission, Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), and other independent agencies.


·         On Thursday at 12:00 p.m., the Federal Reserve releases its “Financial Accounts of the United States - Z.1” report, which examines the assets, liabilities, net worth, and consumer credit (including student loans) of households, nonprofit organizations, and nonfinancial corporate businesses. The Z.1 report is released four times a year, in March, June, September, and December.

·         Saturday through next Tuesday, all day, the American Council on Education (ACE) holds its 99th Annual Meeting, which provides an opportunity to explore and discuss the major issues facing postsecondary institutions today. The conference will includes sessions titled: “The Next Wave of Higher Education Change,” “A Guide to Taking Advantage of Public Service Loan Forgiveness,” “Higher Education in the Balance: What Does Society Want from Colleges and Universities,” and “American College Application Campaign: Working with Higher Education Leaders to Promote Access and Completion.”

 
This information is shared by SASFAA's Legislative Affairs' Committee and NCHER.