The Promoting Real Opportunity, Success and Prosperity Through Education Reform (PROSPER) Act (H.R. 4508) represents the most substantive effort so far by Congress to reauthorize the HEA, which was last renewed in 2008. While the bill includes a number of valuable proposals, these are greatly outweighed by multiple provisions that would be harmful to higher education, particularly to low- and middle-income students. Overall, according to the Congressional Budget Office, it cuts nearly $15 billion in student financial aid.
The bill has languished since it was narrowly approved in committee last December because many rank and file House Republicans, along with all House Democrats, are aware of the serious concerns raised for months by higher education, students, veterans, and the Department of Defense. If House leadership concludes the bill lacks sufficient support, it will not be brought up for a vote.
We are encouraging all ACE members with concerns about the bill to contact your representatives today via telephone or email and reiterate your opposition to the legislation in its current form.
In short, we believe:
- The bill is bad for students and families. PROSPER eliminates the Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant program—which serves 1.5 million students annually—and the in-school interest subsidy used by six million low- and middle-income student borrowers. The bill also eliminates the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program that enables students who take low-paying jobs serving the public (such as teachers, police officers, and members of the military) to have their loans forgiven. At the same time, it reduces the amount families can borrow to pay for college.
- The bill is especially bad for graduate students. In addition to the costs it would impose on them as undergraduates, it makes graduate students ineligible for Federal Work-Study, eliminates loan forgiveness provisions (including Public Service Loan Forgiveness), and reduces the amount they can borrow from federal loan programs, forcing them into the more expensive private loan market.
- The bill guts programs that support low-income students. The PROSPER Act eliminates or cuts funding to programs such as TRIO and GEAR UP that support low-income students, prepare students for high-demand fields, and strengthen institutions supporting first-generation, low-income students.
- The bill would open the door to fraud and abuse. While the bill greatly expands the number of programs and providers able to access federal funds, it simultaneously relaxes the requirements that keep unscrupulous actors out of the system.
- The bill would be particularly hard on community colleges. A number of proposals in the PROSPER Act target two-year institutions, including eliminating the Title IIIA Strengthening Institutions program and amending the long-standing Title IV return-of-funds process by adding a risk-sharing component that will fall most harshly on two-year institutions.
As I said, it appears that this week, possibly even today, is make or break time for House leadership to decide whether to bring this bill to the floor for a vote or shelve it for the rest of this Congress. Given this, we ask that you reach out as soon as possible to your House members.
Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN), chair of the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions, has made it clear that HEA reauthorization will not proceed this year in that chamber. This means there is no reason to vote on the House measure either, since it would not go anywhere in the Senate.
Additional information can be found on ACE’s Higher Education Act resource page, which includes talking points, a summary of the provisions in the bill, and other tools to inform your advocacy.
Please feel free to contact ACE’s Government Relations team at 202-939-9355 or via email at email@example.com if you have specific suggestions or questions or if they can be of assistance in any way.