The Ministry of Education has started its negotiated rule-making process Monday taking the first of three days of public hearings, with commentators discussing topics for federal student aid regulations that the ministry plans to review.
The Department comments solicited on 14 topics for possible regulation, including defending the borrower against repayment; public service loan forgiveness; paid employment; and discharges for closed institutions, borrowers with total and permanent disability, and false student eligibility certificates.
Commentators were not limited to discussing only these topics and could comment on any regulatory issue that could improve student outcomes. The department is also accept written comments until July 1.
“Secretary [Miguel] Cardona recently said that one of the main responsibilities of the ministry is to serve students and borrowers, ”said Michelle Asha Cooper, Acting Assistant Secretary for Post-Secondary Education. “To do this well, it means we need to continually review our policies and practices associated with access, retention, college completion and a host of affordability issues, including reimbursement. student debt and default. ”
After the conclusion of this week’s public hearings, the department will accept appointments from non-federal negotiators to serve on negotiated rule-making committees – part of the process necessary to develop regulations for programs under Title IV of the Act. on higher education in 1965. The committees are expected to meet later this summer, the department said.
The composition of these committees was one of many topics addressed by speakers during Monday’s hearing, with several encouraging the department to ensure they select a diverse group of people – including several students of different ages and backgrounds. different – to serve as negotiators.
“We need a lot of people with fraudulent debt at the table,” said a former Kaplan University student who spoke of her struggles with student loan debt and her frustrations with for-profit colleges. “Students aren’t just young people… we need older people at the table. We need to make sure that those in the room during the negotiated settlement process have all the voices and not just one voice. “
The for-profit sector and the need to report on it was raised several times during the public hearing. David Halperin, an independent lawyer who focuses on higher education issues, cited a Biden campaign document that said, for-profit colleges would have to prove their worth to the ministry before being eligible for federal aid.
“This is absolutely the right position, given the documented predatory behavior of many for-profit colleges,” Halperin said. “Requiring for-profit schools to prove their worth would be of huge benefit to taxpayers who would see far less money diverted. This would benefit quality vocational schools by shifting more resources from bad schools. “
Other commentators have made specific recommendations on the priorities the department should focus on throughout the negotiated rule-making process, including reinstating the paid job cancellation rule, revising and strengthening borrower defense rules and addressing issues with the income-based repayment system, said Kate Tromble, vice president of the Institute for College Access and Success.
“Students, veterans and taxpayers have waited far too long for consistent and strong protections against unmanageable student debt, sudden school closings and waste, fraud and abuse in higher education,” said Tromble. “We cannot afford to wait any longer.
Christopher Chapman, President and CEO of the AccessLex Institute, made specific recommendations to improve the civil service loan forgiveness program, which he called “a very promising program, but not very well executed.” . Recent ministry data shows that only 2 percent of application forms processed so far have met PSLF requirements.
Chapman suggested that the program could be improved by providing borrowers with more accurate and precise information about their PSLF eligibility, making the processing of forms electronic, allowing borrowers to consolidate their loans without losing credit for the period of time. 10-year rebate and allowing borrowers to file an employment certification form through a federal student loan officer.
The PSLF program should also be reformed to address problems faced by professors at higher education institutions trying to get public student loans canceled, said Kaitlyn Vitez, government relations specialist at the American Association of Professors. university.
“About three-quarters of faculty in America are not in tenure, and more than half are part-time, so updated PSLF guidelines are needed to ensure borrowers are not penalized for being employed. an auxiliary or part-time position and that their civil service is sufficiently recognized, ”said Vitez.
Several noted that loan cancellation should take place outside of programs like the PSLF. Cody Hounanian, director of the Student Debt Crisis program, said the administration should use the existing authority to write off the student debt of millions of Americans.
“We believe this is the boldest and most urgent reform on the table, but we know there are many other things to be done,” Hounanian said, such as granting relief from the debt to people with permanent disabilities and address the backlog of PSLF applications. “There is just an incredible lack of urgency and seriousness when it comes to implementing existing programs in a way that helps borrowers, and this is another area that needs to be addressed.”