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Rep. Peter DeFazio Introduces Legislation to Improve Student Loan Assistance and Expand College Access

Apr 18, 2018
Press Release
HIGHER ED, AID bills would improve accessibility to higher education, help borrowers avoid burdensome debt

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 with our country when the financial barriers to obtaining and paying off a higher education are entirely insurmountable,” said Rep. Peter DeFazio. “An education—whether from a vocational school, a community college, or a traditional four-year college—ought to provide opportunities for young people, 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 freely 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 at 150 percent of the federal poverty level—only $18,210 in 2018.

Under the HIGHER ED (Helping Individuals Get a Higher Education while Reducing Education Debt) Act, H.R. 5549, 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 crippling monthly loan payments.

Additionally, the HIGHER ED Act would allow student borrowers to refinance their loans at lower rates, bolster the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program, and reinstate subsidized loans for graduate students, which ended under the 2013 budget sequestration.

In addition, the AID (Achieving Independence through Degrees) Act, H.R. 5550, would increase and improve access to Pell Grants, raising the maximum award from $5,815 to $9,970 and indexing the grant to inflation. The bill would also expand Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits to students, improve the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) application process, and increase student financial literacy by enhancing borrowers’ understanding of the loan process.