With the Higher Education Act (HEA) set to expire at the end of the year -- in turn, setting up a reauthorization hearing before the 113th Congress --the House Committee on Education and the Workforce’s Subcommittee on Higher Education and Workforce Training held a hearing in Washington on Tuesday featuring numerous panelists discussing the significance of federal student aid programs.
As college costs continue to increase, Subcommittee Chairwoman Virginia Foxx (R-N.C.) said that new programs, which entail different eligibility requirements and funding streams for federal financial student aid, could become components of the HEA, pending it is reauthorized for a tenth time since being enacted in 1965.
In her opening remarks, Rep. Foxx noted that there is a possibility that financial aid applications could be simplified by linking applications with student IRS information. Additionally, she believes that other financial aid models -- including campus-based federal aid and student aid tied to student income -- are likely to become incorporated in a reauthorized HEA package. Moving student loan interest rates towards “market-based formulas,” she said, could also create more stability for taxpayers and borrowers alike.
Rep. Suzanne Bonamici (D-Ore) said that, over the last few years, the “purchasing power” of Pell grants -- which she considered a “lifeline for more than 9 million students” -- has eroded, with most of the grants only covering about one-third of students’ total college costs. She noted that last year, student loan debt topped $1 trillion in the United States, officially eclipsing the nation’s total credit card debt. With subsidized Stafford loans interest rates on course to double, she believes that many college students may be saddled with even greater debts, or even be forced out of college altogether.