March 31, 2018

ABA highlights priorities for reauthorization of HEA

The ABA recently laid out its views on several major issues that will be considered by the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee when it begins the process of reauthorizing the Higher Education Act this year.

In a Feb. 23 letter to committee Chairman Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) and Ranking Member Patty Murray (D-Wash.), ABA Governmental Affairs Director Thomas M. Susman emphasized the pivotal role the ABA has played in numerous areas: developing standards for legal education; accrediting law schools; and supporting programs that help law students afford law school and enter public service employment despite high student debt.

Susman urged the committee to consider the following ABA polices, which support:

●federal assistance to individuals who are experiencing financial hardship because of excessive levels of student loan debt;

●development and publishing of easily understood versions of the terms of various loan and repayment programs;

●assistance to those, including foster care children, making decisions affecting their right to quality education, including improving the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) to identify those face barriers to access to financial aid and postsecondary education because they have been in foster care or experienced homelessness;

●preservation of the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program, which provides loan forgiveness to law school graduates and others pursuing careers in public service after they have served at least 10 years in qualified public service employment; and

●reauthorization of the John R. Justice Student Loan Repayment Programs, which provides for the payment of eligible educational loans for state and federal public defenders and state prosecutors who agree to remain employed as public defenders and prosecutors for at least three years.

The Senate committee has held several hearings on HEA reauthorization this Congress, and introduction of a bill is expected in April. In December, the House Education and the Workforce Committee approved H.R. 4508, its version of HEA reauthorization known as the Promoting Real Opportunity, Success and Prosperity Through Education Reform (PROSPER) Act. The House bill would make substantial changes to federal student loan programs, including the termination of PSLF.