H.R. 4508, PROSPER Act

Bill Summary:

From the text of the bill: To support students in completing an affordable postsecondary education that will prepare them to enter the workforce with the skills they need for lifelong success.

Bill Sponsor: Virginia Foxx (R-NC)

Cosponsors: Jason Lewis and 20 additional Republicans; no Democrats.

Why This Bill Is Against Progressive Values:

On behalf of the undersigned associations, we write to express our deep concern with H.R. 4508, the Promoting Real Opportunity, Success, and Prosperity through Education Reform Act (PROSPER), the legislation to reauthorize the Higher Education Act scheduled to be marked up by the committee Dec. 12. Most importantly, this bill would make higher education more expensive for millions of students and families. In addition, it would make significant changes in federal higher education policy without a clear understanding of the likely consequences. (Source: American Council on Education)

The House education and work-force committee last month [Dec 2017] completed a marathon markup of the PROSPER Act, their proposed HEA [Higher Education Act] rewrite. The bill would make the biggest change to the financing of graduate student education since 2005. Where graduate students can now borrow an unlimited amount up to the cost of attendance, the provision would limit federal lending to graduate students to $28,500 annually. Student advocates and graduate education groups, including the Council of Graduate Schools, have warned that those limits could shut many less privileged students out of graduate programs or force them to take out private loans with less generous benefits. (Source: Inside Higher Ed)

At a time when outstanding student debt has surpassed $1.45 trillion, the PROSPER Act would exacerbate the problem even further. The bill eliminates the $0 per month payment that the lowest income borrowers qualify for in certain income-driven repayment plans. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau has found that there are over 8 million borrowers in default on their student loans — this change that would push even more borrowers into default. This isn’t the only swipe the bill takes at vulnerable borrowers. According to the National Consumer Law Center, the changes the bill makes to Income Based Repayment would mean it could take a low-income borrower with just $30,000 in student loan debt an incredible 138 years to repay their student loans. The bill also takes direct aim at those who’ve committed their careers to public service, by eliminating the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program, which forgives federal loans after 10 years for those who pursue work in emergency services, public education, social work, or other public sector jobs. (Source: Americans for Financial Reform)

While it is meant to reform higher education to help students, the changes it makes to Public Service Loan Forgiveness, interest rates on student loans, and graduate borrowing limits would hurt a lot of students. Graduate and professional students in particular certainly won’t prosper if this bill becomes law. The biggest impact will come for current and future students interested in earning Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) for their work in the public sector. Perhaps to prevent an uproar, the bill does not outright eliminate the program—instead, it makes eligibility essentially impossible for new borrowers by eliminating the Federal Direct Loans and repayment plans eligible for PSLF, and instead creating new “Federal ONE Loans” with limited repayment options that are not eligible. Congresswoman Foxx is effectively making PSLF unattainable for any new borrowers. (Source: Huffington Post)

A landmark Republican higher education bill would not only rescind programs that help make college affordable–it also seeks to reform campus culture in ways that could restrict schools’ ability to govern campus speech and address allegations of sexual assault. The most striking provisions take aim at Title IX, the law that protects students from gender-based discrimination and governs how schools handle sexual violence investigations. Under the bill, school counselors would not have to report sexual assault incidents to campus administrators, and law enforcement officials would be permitted to postpone campus disciplinary proceedings as they conduct their own criminal investigations. Those changes could lead to underreporting of sexual violence and delays in bringing school-based remedies to victims. (Source: Mother Jones)