WASHINGOTN, D.C. – The Center for Responsible Lending (CRL) joined The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights and 46 other national civil rights organizations in announcing new principles for the reauthorization of the Higher Education Act (HEA). The principles are rooted in boosting college access for all students and addressing the student loan debt crisis.
The HEA was first passed in 1965 at the height of the civil rights movement in response to public demands from communities of color that the federal government do more to expand higher education opportunities for students.
While progress has been made over the past 50 years since the HEA was signed into law, new challenges have arisen. Funding for public secondary education has depleted, college and university tuition has sky rocketed, forty-four million Americans owe $1.4 trillion in student loan debt, and predatory for-profit colleges are syphoning money from federal student aid programs at taxpayer’s expense. As Congress considers reauthorizing the HEA, education advocates are calling for updated solutions to address some of these important issues.
"These principles reflect the continued importance of higher education in America,” said CRL Counsel Ashley Harrington. “It is important that any reauthorization provide meaningful access to quality higher education, especially for students of color and low-income students, and adequately address the needs of future students. It is also paramount that we address the needs of current and former students and the looming student debt crisis. The massive federal and individual investment in postsecondary education is not yielding close to the return that it should. Congress must limit taxpayer funding of predatory for-profit programs and reform the student debt system to include more consumer protections, affordable repayment options and better servicing standards."
To fulfill the civil rights promise and intent of the HEA, any reauthorization must include the following principles:
- Ensure robust implementation and enforcement of civil rights laws across all postsecondary institutions that accept federal funds and ensure federal funds only go towards institutions that do not discriminate based on race, color, national origin, gender, disability, or age.
- Remove barriers to enrollment and promote meaningful access for historically marginalized students, including providing for quality educator preparation so that students are prepared for success after K-12.
- Increase student persistence in and completion of a quality, racially equitable postsecondary education, such that students who enroll will have meaningful access to all aspects of student life and the support they need to succeed.
- Make college affordable for low-income students and ensure that federal student aid takes into account the totality of a family's economic circumstances and full college costs, which may include child care, transportation, and housing, and prioritize investments in grant aid first to reduce the disparate student loan debt burden placed on low-income students, first-generation students, women, and students of color.
- Provide for the collection and reporting of higher education data that is disaggregated, cross-tabulated, and broadly available without personally identifiable information and ensure that students and families have meaningful access to figures about programmatic quality, affordability, student borrowing, attendance costs, measures of student success, campus safety and climate, and investigations of the institution regarding fraudulent, abusive, and deceptive practices.
- Design accountability systems to ensure students receive value from their higher education, and not in a way that limits opportunity for or disincentivizes enrollment of low-income students or other students who might face greater barriers to degree completion.
- Exclude for-profit colleges, including covert for-profit colleges masquerading as non-profit, from federal financial aid programs unless they have demonstrated their value to students through increased student earnings and they rely, at least partially, on non-federal sources of funding.
- Protect student loan borrowers from abusive and fraudulent practices and exploitation in the federal and private student loan servicing and debt collection markets and provide access to accurate and complete information about their loans, access to affordable repayment options, access to administrative loan discharges, and access to legal remedies if they need further relief.
- Ensure safe and inclusive campus climates free of harassment and violence, including sexual harassment, gender-based harassment and violence, and other forms of harassment and violence based on race, national origin, religion, disability, or any combination thereof, and ensure that campus programs, policies, and practices are inclusive, equitable, fair, and advance the safety and well-being of all students.
- Invest in and support institutions that serve high populations of traditionally underrepresented students, including Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs), Hispanic Serving Institutions (HSIs), Predominantly Black Institutions (PBIs), Tribal Colleges and Universities (TCUs), Alaska Native and Native Hawaiian-serving Institutions (ANNHIs), Native American-serving Nontribal Institutions (NASNTIs), and Asian American and Native American Pacific Islander Serving Institutions (AANAPISIs).
For more information, or to arrange an interview with a CRL spokesperson on this issue, please contact Ricardo Quinto at email@example.com.