Senate HELP Committee Holds Hearing On Financial Aid Simplification

January 19, 2018

Prepared by: Greg Marak (gmarak@bosewashingtonpartners.com)

On Thursday, January 18, 2018, the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) committee held a hearing entitled, “Reauthorizing the Higher Education Act: Financial Aid Simplification and Transparency.” A large part of the committee’s discussion centered around new and existing proposals that are designed to contribute to the ultimate goal of making it easier for students to apply for financial aid, and default less on their loans. Several times, committee members questioned witnesses about whether or not they believed simplification and streamlining of federal student aid programs would ultimately lead to less money being available for students to borrow, which would then prompt them to borrow more from the private sector.

The Federal Perkins Loan program was mentioned multiple times; Senators Susan Collins (R-ME) and Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) expressed support for the program, and said they hoped that campus-based aid programs such as Perkins, but also Federal Work Study and Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grants (SEOG) would be part of the conversation moving forward with HEA reauthorization.

Senator Collins said, “When [colleges participating in Perkins] hear as discussed one loan one grant, it makes them very nervous about whether they will be able to fill the gaps in financial aid packages for their students…These programs, in Maine’s experience have been absolutely critical.”

Ultimately, the members of the committee agreed they would aim to focus on “student-based” simplification, and would try not to decrease federal student aid money available to borrowers, but streamline and consolidate existing programs.

  • A detailed summary is attached, and a full recording of the hearing is available online.

 

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