Rep. Peter DeFazio Introduces HIGHER ED + AID Acts to Improve Student Loan Assistance And Expand College Access
Congressman Peter DeFazio today introduced the HIGHER ED and AID Acts, two pieces of legislation aimed at making it easier for students to attend and pay for higher education.
“There is something seriously wrong when financial barriers to obtaining and paying for a higher education are entirely insurmountable,” said Rep. Peter DeFazio. “An education—whether from a vocational school, a community college, or a four-year college—ought to provide opportunities, not financial burdens. The HIGHER ED and AID Acts will expand options for all students, regardless of their educational path, and allow them to focus on their futures without worrying about the financial costs.”
Currently, former students enrolled in Income-Driven Repayment (IDR) plans are generally required to start making payments on their student loans upon earning a salary of at least 150 percent of the federal poverty level—only $18,210.
Under the HIGHER ED (Helping Individuals Get a Higher Education while Reducing Education Debt) Act, H.R. 3102, the minimum salary threshold for IDR plans would be raised to 225 percent of the federal poverty level, so that low-income borrowers can focus on starting their careers rather than being overwhelmed by monthly loan payments.
Additionally, the HIGHER ED Act would create one simple, easy-to-follow IDR plan available to all borrowers, cap monthly payments at 10 percent of discretionary income, allow student borrowers to refinance their loans at lower rates, and reinstate subsidized loans for graduate students, which ended in 2013. It would also bolster the Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) program by simplifying the application and certification process, allowing borrowers to have 50 percent of their loans forgiven after five years of public service and correcting flaws and loopholes in the program that have prevented over ninety-nine percent of all public servants who have applied from receiving the loan forgiveness they have earned.
The AID (Achieving Independence through Degrees) Act, H.R. 3101, would improve college affordability and accessibility by increasing the maximum Pell Grant award from $6,095 to $10,230 (the average cost of in-state tuition during the 2018-2019 school year) and indexing the award to inflation. The bill would also expand Pell Grants to cover short-term workforce training programs of at least 150 hours or eight weeks in order to create new job opportunities for those looking to strengthen their position in the labor market.
The AID Act would also expand Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits to students, improve the financial aid application process—including simplifying the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) form—and modernize and increase funding for the Federal Work-Study and Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant programs to ensure that more resources go to students with the most need.