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President to President
Molly Corbett Broad's weekly email newsletter to higher education leaders.

President to President: Congress Ramps Up Work on Student Loan, Student Information Bills

May 13-17, 2013 ~ Vol. 14, No. 15

  • Congress Ramps Up Work on Student Loan, Student Information Bills
  • Senate Judiciary Committee Continues Consideration of Immigration Measure

In what seems like a replay of late spring 2012, Congress ramped up action this week on addressing the looming interest rate increase for subsidized student loans, which once again is slated to double from 3.4 percent to 6.8 percent July 1.

The House Education and the Workforce Committee yesterday approved the Smarter Solutions for Students Act (H.R. 1911)​. Introduced by Reps. John Kline (R-MN) and Virginia Foxx (R-NC), this bill would tie both subsidized and unsubsidized Stafford student loan rates to the 10-year Treasury note, plus 2.5 percent, and end the rate differentiation between the two types of loans. It would also tie PLUS loans for parents and graduate students to the 10-year Treasury note, plus 4.5 percent. See the table below for what students and their families would pay under these proposals.​

​Current Rates ​Rates on July 1 (if no action taken) ​The Sm​arter Solutions for Students Act (H.R. 1911)
​Subsidized Stafford Loans ​3.4% ​6.8% ​​4.44%
Unsubsidized Stafford Loans​ ​6.8% ​6.8% ​4.44%
PLUS Loana​
7.9%
​7.9%​​ ​6.44%

Note: Interest rate on H.R. 1911 calculated using the 10-year Treasury note rate as of May 15, 2013.

ACE and 14 other higher education associations Wednesday sent a statement of key principles for committee leaders to consider as they continue debate on the issue, along with a letter summarizing our response to the measure.

A number of bills have been proposed in the Senate to address the pending interest rate deadline, including the Student Loan Affordability Act of 2013 (S. 953)​, introduced Tuesday by Sens. Tom Harkin (D-IA), chair of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee; Jack Reed (D-RI); Patty Murray (D-WA); and Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV). That measure would freeze student loan interest rates for two years while Congress works on a long-term solution. It pays for this extension with a combination of changes to tax and energy provisions that would not affect students or institutions. It is unclear, however, if these offsets will receive much support among Republicans. We are in the process of preparing a letter to the four senators on this bill.

Because the July 1 deadline is only weeks away, we expect both bills to continue moving quickly. However, given the huge differences between the two, it is likely any final measure will go down to the wire.

During the same session yesterday, the House Education and the Workforce Committee also approved the Improving Postsecondary Education Data for Students Act (H.R. 1949)​, introduced by Rep. Luke Messer (R-IN). You can read our letter on this bill here​. It follows on the heels of a separate measure introduced in the Senate last week by Sens. Ron Wyden (D-OR), Marco Rubio (R-FL), and Mark Warner (D-VA): the Student Right to Know Before You Go Act. The Messer bill would appoint a commission to study the feasibility and desirability of a national student information database, while the Senate bill would mandate the creation of such a database. Both bills are part of the initial work on reauthorizing the Higher Education Act.

The Senate Judiciary Committee continued work on the proposed comprehensive immigration bill this week, plowing its way through dozens of amendments, including several we have been watching closely.

The committee unanimously approved several amendments to the Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act of 2013 (S. 744)​ of interest to colleges and universities and the international students on our campuses.

One provision​ would require all institutions which accept foreign students to be accredited by an approved regional or national accrediting agency. This is an effort to shut down diploma mills. A second amendment​ would require customs officials to have access to the federal student-visa database—known as the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS)—within 120 days of the legislation’s enactment. Both amendments were proposed by Sen. Charles Grassley (R-IA).

A full list of the amendments acted upon so far, including several more that will impact higher education institutions, can be found here.​

ACE and 12 other higher education groups sent a letter to the committee​ last week noting that while there is much to like about the immigration bill, there are several details we would like the committee to reconsider as it continues to craft the legislation.

Molly Corbett Broad
President of ACE​​​

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