State and National Higher Ed Policy Updates — June 2019

Bahar Akman Imboden
Jul 1 · 5 min read

Massachusetts Updates:

Student Loan Bill of Rights Hearing

It has been exciting to see that several states have been working hard and moving their Student Loan Bill of Rights forward; this month, Maine signed SLBR into law, and California has made steps toward passing their own as well. Now, it is our turn to show legislators that we need our own SLBR! Senator Eric Lesser and Representative Natalie Higgins have sponsored the MA bill calling for a wide range of regulations, including the establishment of a student loan ombudsman and a state-level licensing system for loan servicers. The bill hearing has been scheduled for July 8th at 1pm in room A-2.

The Hildreth Institute will be there with students and alumni advocates, as well as a coalition of partner organizations, including the Student Borrower Protection Center, MASSPIRG, The Public Higher Education Network of Massachusetts, and The Institute of Student Loan Advisors. Come in numbers and show your support for borrowers’ rights!

Contact us if you would like more information on how to testify at this hearing.

Protecting Students from College Closures

The Commissioner of Higher Education just announced that they will be soliciting public comment on the proposed regulations to annually screen and monitor the financial stability of independent colleges and universities in the Commonwealth, with the goal of protecting students from the extraordinary disruption caused by abrupt institutional closures.

The dates of the public hearings will be published in the Boston Globe the week of July 8th, and we should expect two or three hearings to be held between July 12th and Aug 9th. Stay tuned for more on this important issue. College closures are increasingly affecting students of Massachusetts, and we need to ensure that they are adequately protected! Contact us if you would like more information on how to testify at these hearings.

Other MA news:

Mass. college enrollment drop continues

How will Massachusetts respond to college closing

From College Accreditor, A New Tool To Help Avoid Sudden Mass. College Closures

Everything Must Go: Newbury College Is Having A Closeout Sale

Why Are Small Private Colleges Across The Nation Dying?

Massachusetts Legislature — again — passes constitutional amendment to create ‘millionaire’s tax’

The Hunger Games: Colleges Respond to Students in Need

National updates:

DeVos repeals Gainful Employment Rule

DeVos announced that she will end the gainful employment rules that aimed to hold low-quality career education programs accountable. These rules, introduced by the Obama administration, required for-profit schools to share their student debt-to-earnings data to ensure that they did not systematically saddle students with unmanageable debt and degrees they cannot pay off.

This decision is appalling! Once again, DeVos is putting the interests of for-profit, low-quality schools ahead of students. This will only enable more predatory schools to profit off of the next generation by giving them worthless credentials and insurmountable debt.

Student Debt Cancellation

Democratic candidates have been actively campaigning on debt cancellation this month. Senator Elizabeth Warren has called for the cancellation of $640 billion of outstanding student loan debt with certain restrictions, including income eligibility and caps on the amount forgiven. Her plan would have 75% of all outstanding student debt cancelled, with 95% of student loan borrowers receiving at least some benefit, and it would be paid for through an “ultra-millionaire’s tax.” Senator Bernie Sanders’ plan would cancel the whole $1.6 trillion of student loan debt with no means-testing or income qualifications. His proposal would be financed by a new tax on Wall Street transactions.

While some argue that a complete student loan cancellation would disproportionately benefit high-income graduate and professional degree holders, we believe that, in principle, a higher education should be not to be financed by debt. We have bought into a culture of borrowing, in which taking on large amount of loans is normalized and banalized. We should fight the misguided belief that in order to become a doctor or a lawyer, it is somehow justified to have to borrow a quarter million dollars or more!

We couldn’t agree more with Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez when she said:

“What we tell 17-year-olds all the time is that you are not old enough or responsible enough to drink, you are not old enough or responsible enough to vote, you are not old enough or responsible enough to serve in our military, but you are old enough and responsible enough to take on a quarter million dollars worth of debt.”

The other side of Debt Cancellation

Debt cancellation offers a solution to those who have already borrowed, but it is unimaginable to forgive existing debt without also resolving the problems that will arise from the need for future borrowing. Sen. Sanders’ College for All Act proposes a state-federal partnership in which states commit to eliminating tuition and fees at public universities and colleges in exchange for a federal two-to-one dollar match program. States would need to commit to maintaining higher education funding and to relying less on adjunct faculty. They would also need to show that they can cover the full cost of attendance for the poorest families, i.e. those earning less than $25,000 per year. The federal funding would come with some important restrictions: it cannot go to administrators’ salaries, any merit-based financial aid, or non-academic buildings, like shiny new football stadiums.

Sen. Warren, along with Sens. Cory Booker, Kamala Harris, and Kirsten Gillibrand, are supporting the Debt-Free College Act, an ambitious proposal to have a state-federal partnership program that would not only cover the costs of tuition, but also help students pay for extra costs like housing and food. Under this proposal, to receive federal funding, states would have to commit to capping tuition and fees at current levels, with a yearly adjustment allowed based on CPI; to working with public HEIs to reduce tuition and fees as the state increases its appropriations; and to maintaining current state need-based aid programs, or using these funds to further the debt-free commitment made under the partnership. Sen. Schatz, who has re-introduced this bill with several Democratic colleagues, explained: “The full cost of college — including books, room and board, and supplies — is more than twice as much as tuition. If we are going to be serious about solving the student loan debt crisis we need to focus on the real cost to students and their families.”

Other National news:

Student Loans and the False Advertising of Upward Mobility

Report Highlights Racial Disparities in Student Debt

At HBCUs, crushing student loan debt is a symptom of even bigger problems

The Long Road to the Student Debt Crisis

The Surreal End of an American College

DeVos Repeals Obama-Era Rule Cracking Down on For-Profit Colleges

DeVos Issues Final Repeal of Gainful Employment

I paid off all my student loans. I still support student loan forgiveness.

Elizabeth Warren: Here’s My Plan To Cancel Student Loan Debt

Top Higher Ed Debate in 2019? Big Solutions for Borrowers

What The 2020 Democrats Say They’ll Do About Your College Debt

How the Democrats Got Radicalized on Student Debt

Democratic Divisions on Higher Ed

Student loan scams are on the rise. Don’t fall for them

Professionals struggling to pay off student loans say they were set up to fail

Why You’ll Get Denied for Student Loan Forgiveness

Stop Feeding College Bureaucratic Bloat

The government has this wrong: Financial literacy alone won’t solve the student-debt crisis

Hildreth Institute

Bahar Akman Imboden

Written by

Bahar is co-founder and Managing Director of Hildreth Institute. Working towards solutions to address pervasive inequalities present in our society. McGill PhD.

Hildreth Institute

The Hildreth Institute is a non-profit, nonpartisan research and policy center dedicated to restoring the promise of higher education as an engine of upward mobility for all.

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