The Center for Responsible Lending (CRL) appreciates the opportunity to provide comments on our priorities for the reauthorization of the Higher Education Act (HEA). CRL applauds your initial efforts to tackle these policy reforms in H.R. 6543, The Aim Higher Act. We appreciate your dedication to create a bill that gets our country closer to providing a debt-free higher education for American students. We also appreciate your commitment to underrepresented students demonstrated in provide a more accessible higher education to traditionally underrepresented students by strengthening college access programs, simplifying the financial aid application, and establishing policies to ensure students have access to a quality education.
As we approach the 116th Congress, we hope that you will continue to push for a Higher Education Reauthorization Act that holds true to the spirit of the original HEA which sought to open the doors of higher education to all. CRL stands firm in the belief that any reauthorization in the 116th Congress should focus on the outcomes for those who have been traditionally shut out of higher education: low-income students and students of color.
To do this, any HEA reauthorization should provide meaningful access to higher education. Ensuring that students can access a debt-free degree by guaranteeing that the institutional benefactors of federal aid provide, in exchange for taxpayer and student investment, quality affordable education and educational support services.
Specifically, CRL urges this Committee to only propose and pass legislation that includes the following:
- Access to a debt-free higher education (degree or credential);
- Preservation, streamlining, and improvement of income-based repayment plans and loan forgiveness;
- Strong accountability measures for predatory for-profit institutions;
- Statutory requirements to ensure loan servicers meet basic consumer protection standards and further improvements to student loan servicing to help students pay off their loans;
- Strengthen the Gainful Employment Rule; and,
- Require the Department of Education to enforce the Borrower Defense repayment rule and administer claims for schools that have closed.