Capitol Hill Fall Showdown: Will Higher Ed Get Left Behind?


​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​Aired October 21, 2021

As Congress attempts to finish the budget reconciliation bill, a number of provisions in the social spending measure are in danger of being cut. Terry Hartle and Jon Fansmith look at what we know so far, as well as the future of Public Service Loan Forgiveness and the president's order mandating COVID-19 vaccinations for federal contractors. Sarah Spreitzer kicks the episode off with a chat about lifting the COVID-19 travel ban, which should ease travel to the U.S. for international students and scholars.

Here are some of the links and references from this week’s show:​

ACE, Higher Ed Groups Urge Flexibility for International Students as COVID-19 Travel Ban is Lifted

What Colleges and Universities Need to Know About the Biden Vaccine Mandate for Federal Contractors (Issue Brief)

Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program Not Living Up to Its Name
CBS News “60 Minutes"​


 Read this episode's transcript

Jon Fansmith: Hello and welcome to dotEDU, the higher education policy podcast from the American Council on Education. I'm your host, Jon Fansmith, and I'm joined by my co-host, Sarah Spreitzer. And in this episode, we'll be welcoming ACE Senior Vice President, Terry Hartle, to the podcast in our regular crossover with ACE's Public Policy Pop Up to discuss key issues to the day in Washington DC. But before we get to that conversation, Sarah, how are you doing?

Sarah Spreitzer: Pretty good besides the fact that you and Terry left me off the Public Policy Pop Up yesterday.

Jon Fansmith: I will say I asked him in the Pop Up, as you will hear, who he preferred and he-

Sarah Spreitzer: Seriously, I got a shout out?

Jon Fansmith: Well, no, because he said, "A gentleman never tells," which I think since he usually enjoys insulting me to my face means he actually does like me better because he just couldn't bring himself to admit it.

Sarah Spreitzer: Interesting. We might have to title this intro Spoiler Alert.

Jon Fansmith: Yeah, maybe that's it. Oh yeah, it's a spoiler.

Sarah Spreitzer: Yeah, because...Yeah, yeah.

Jon Fansmith: Well, you are actually in the office with Terry today too so you could go down the hall and just ask him which one of us who prefers more.

Sarah Spreitzer: That's true. I ask him that on a daily basis.

Jon Fansmith: I imagine because you are at the office, he actually does prefer you more, so.

Sarah Spreitzer: Yeah. And the office is still pretty quiet. We have a couple other people in the building, but I think, for the most part, folks are starting to feel more comfortable like coming back but it's just not every day of the week. And obviously we're all still masked and I am doing this podcast from an empty conference room and I think Terry and I are the only ones today on the eighth floor of One Dupont.

Jon Fansmith: Do you, I mean, since you're the only people on the floor, do you just randomly go to other people's offices and hang out, like pretend to be somebody else for a day?

Sarah Spreitzer: Well, it's funny you mentioned that Jon, because I have I have knocked out the wall between our offices and I've just pushed into your office and doubled my space. I figured that a nice surprise for when you actually come back.

Jon Fansmith: Yeah. Maybe we could hotel it or something. So, we just take turns having a giant office.

Sarah Spreitzer: Yeah, that's true. I'm waiting to knock into Pete's office on the other side, our General Counsel, that's much bigger.

Jon Fansmith: Yeah, that's a solid plan. Maybe I'll start returning and help you with that. I have a sledgehammer, so we could knock it out in no time-

Sarah Spreitzer: Oh, that will come in handy. Yeah.

Jon Fansmith: So while you are in the office slamming walls apart, are you doing anything else? Is anything else happening in Washington?

Sarah Spreitzer: Well, yeah, there's a lot going on as I feel like we say every week. And one of those things where it's like what's going to happen this week? But we're starting to get more details on what the US policy is going to be for international travelers in November. So earlier this summer, the US had announced that international travelers that can show that they're fully vaccinated will be allowed to enter the US, and that's really important for our international students and scholars. And our international students, the state department had granted them some flexibility. They had a national interest exemption so if they were coming from a country that had a travel ban due to COVID, they could still enter, which was great and very helpful for the fall semester. But now we're entering this new period where everyone's going to be able to enter as long as they can show proof of vaccination. And we're a little worried about how that's going to impact our international students and scholars that may be coming from countries that don't have very broad access to the vaccine. And so we've reached out to the White House, to the CDC, to the State Department to find out or to try and advocate for some flexibility for those international students and scholars, especially because our campuses are doing so much to vaccinate the students, staff, and faculty, and really the surrounding communities, and we know that our students and scholars will be going to those campuses. And so we're hoping to hear some good news on that. We don't have a lot of details about what the policy is going to look like overall and so I think we'll learn some more stuff in the lead up to early November.

Jon Fansmith: And are you hearing a lot from campuses about this? Is it something that''re shaking your head, so I'll...

Sarah Spreitzer: Not yet. It's one of those things that we know will likely be a problem in January at the start of the next semester. Most of our students, I think a lot of them made it in, in time for the start of the fall semester. We don't have many folks coming in right now. The big news is for our faculty or our staff who may have been on our campuses and who had remained here during COVID, this flexibility will allow them to travel during the holidays and get back to the US. That was something that was problematic. Folks that had kind of stayed here, but as things were starting to open up, they were looking to travel and visit family, but then they wouldn't be able to re-enter the US if they were traveling from one of those countries on the travel ban list.

Jon Fansmith: So generally good news with more news to follow.

Sarah Spreitzer: Yeah, I think good news. And we'll just have to see what's going to happen as the policy becomes fully formed.

Jon Fansmith: Well, thank you for that. It's nice we have a little good news to start this episode off with because when we return from our break, it will be the conversation between Terry and I where we talk about everything and very little of it is good news.

Sarah Spreitzer: Before we go, Jon, I just wanted to mention that we're still doing quite a lot of work around Afghanistan and support for our displaced students and scholars and working with our institutions. And I wanted to flag for folks that there's been a new website launched called that's collecting information and resources for institutions that may be offering housing for Afghan refugees, scholarships, or possible jobs. So I'd urge everyone to check out the website. If you have questions, feel free to reach out. Obviously this is an ongoing issue, but we know that a lot of our institutions are stepping up to help those refugees.

Jon Fansmith: That's great, Sarah, thanks for sharing that information with us and we'll be right back with a Public Policy Pop Up crossover conversation with me and Terry.

Hello and welcome to today's Public Policy Pop Up. Welcome Terry. Always good to be doing these with you. I know it's replaced ably by Sarah on the last one.

Terry Hartle: You were indeed.

Jon Fansmith: Who do you prefer? That's the most important question.

Terry Hartle: A gentleman never tells.

Jon Fansmith: Speaking of joking about things, you and I, as we were preparing for this, we were joking about calling this the Acela Edition of the Public Policy Pop Up. I'm going to let you explain to the people watching why that is.

Terry Hartle: Well, as Jon and I were talking about this, we were focusing on the fact that budget reconciliation is really playing an outside role in everything that's going on in Washington DC. And the analogy was that the East Coast from Washington to Boston is sometimes referred to as the Acela corridor. Well, imagine what would happen to that very busy corridor for passenger trains and freight if we had a massive derailment of an Acela train right outside of Philadelphia that completely tore up the tracks. Now obviously everything would come to a halt and nothing would move very quickly. I picked Philadelphia because Jon is from Philadelphia and that seemed like a good place for a train derailment, but reconciliation is just sucking all the oxygen out of the air. There's a lot of stuff that was going on. A lot of things we can talk about, like debt sailing, the infrastructure bill, the 22-appropriation cycle, everything has now stopped because of reconciliation. The big deal on reconciliation is really sort of two questions. One question is how much money, how big a bill can the Democrats persuade the progressives and the moderates to, well, how big a bill can they persuade the moderates to accept? How small a bill can they persuade the progressives to accept? The Democrats don't have enough margin to lose any votes, everybody's pretty much going to have to agree. The second issue is if you have to come down and Speaker Pelosi has been very candid in saying she thinks they'll be in the trillion dollar range, what do you do about the programs to include? Do you do a small number of things well or do you try to do everything that you're currently doing at a much smaller scale?

So, the Democrats are wrestling with those two questions and until they answer those two questions, how much money and do we do a lot of things, or do we do a few things well, we really don't know where this is going to go. We talk, as you all can imagine, to congressional staff all the time. And it's usually not a terribly good sign, Jon, if the congressional staff are asking us if we've heard anything. But that's sort of the situation we're in. The staff who will write the human capital parts of this, the ideas affecting colleges and universities and our students really haven't been told what to do. They're sitting there waiting until they get instructions from the Democratic leadership, and then they will begin to redraft the legislation. There has been a fair amount of talk of Democrats hoping to finish this by the end of October, that would mean that they need to sort of have a top line number and the understanding about which activities are going to be included by the end of this week. Remember the bill that's under consideration now has come down quite a ways from what President Biden was talking about earlier. Initially, President Biden was talking about doubling the Pell Grant program. Then we went to a $1,400 increase in the maximum grant. Now we are at a $500 increase in the maximum grant.

He talked about free public higher education during the campaign, then he talked about free community college. We're now down to a free community college that would last for five years. They talked about money for retention and completion programs. This was supposed to be 62 billion dollars, it's now 9 billion dollars. Nine billion is still a lot of money. It's more than we spend on TRIO over five years, but it's a long way from the 62 billion that people were talking about. Last but not least, the administration made a strong promise to increase funding for HBCUs, for other minority serving institutions, particularly around research infrastructure. They said initially they wanted 20 billion dollars for these purposes. That's now down to 2 billion dollars. So the issue that Jon and I worry about in particular is if we go from 3.5 trillion to 2 trillion, how much of that do we keep? We know that the biggest priorities for the Democrats are universal pre-school, expanded childcare, and expanded medical service such as dental benefits under Medicare, all worthy things. But when the Democrats sort of put down their top three list, higher education doesn't show up on that list very often. So we are simply sitting and waiting. The staff that we work with on a daily basis are sitting and waiting, and Jon, I think that pretty well summarizes, what did I leave out?

Jon Fansmith: Well, I think you pretty well summarized it, but we did have some questions that were coming in on the subject. So, the first one, it's a nice, open-ended one, allows you to use your predictive abilities, Terry, the question is will reconciliation pass?

Terry Hartle: Will reconciliation pass? We will answer that question next Pop Up session. Look, it's obviously disastrous for the Democrats if it doesn't pass. But we have seen consistently in this century, the party that controls the White House and Congress be unable to pass it's top priorities. I go all the way back to 2005, President George W. Bush wanted to remake Social Security. It was far and away his top priority. Democrats weren't at all interested in touching that and the Republicans eventually, because of disagreements within their own caucus, couldn't even bring it to the floor. Similarly in 2010, President Obama wanted a cap and trade energy policy. Republicans didn't want to touch it. Democrats had big margins in the House and Senate, but it fell apart because the coastal Democrats and the center of the country Democrats couldn't agree. And finally, in 2017, President Trump wanted to eliminate Obamacare. It fell apart because of four Republican senators in the Senate who simply wouldn't vote with the President, Romney, Collins, Murkowski, and best known John McCain. So this notion that differences within a party can torpedo that party's desire to accomplish its top priority is something we have to recognize. Democrats have a real possibility here of a grievous self-inflicted wound. At the end of the day, I think they will get there, but it's going to be a quarter of a loaf of what they wanted.

Jon Fansmith: Yeah, you hear a lot that discussion about failure is a bigger blow than a deal nobody really loves. So, yeah. Some other questions on this, this one I know you're very close to, is there any talk of making a push for the Double Pell campaign as the lead item and a paired down higher ed reconciliation package?

Terry Hartle: Yes, there's a lot of talk of it, Jon and I talk about it just pretty much every day. Is it a viable policy option? Probably not. Look, the best way to get to free community college quickly is by expanding the Pell Grant program because the program exists, the money goes out, people will get it, they will be able to use it to afford higher education. But increasing the Pell Grant program substantially is very expensive, and as far as Democrats are concerned, most importantly, it does nothing by way of imposing a maintenance of effort requirement on state governments. So the Pell Grant program remains a very popular program, a widespread support for increasing it if they can afford it financially, but I think the likelihood that that would replace a free community college is essentially zero.

Jon Fansmith: We are talking about all the other things that are being held up. One of these things, the one that's most closely tied to reconciliation is the infrastructure package, the so-called bipartisan infrastructure package. What's happening there?

Terry Hartle: Nothing until we pass a reconciliation. Infrastructure will pass as soon as they have a deal on reconciliation. Everybody loves reconciliation. It polls very high with the public. I think at the end of the day, the average voter, not the partisan voter, but the average voter wants to make sure the government is working. The government's getting stuff done, that they're doing things to improve the country and infrastructure is something that the public intuitively understands. So this will happen if reconciliation happens. If reconciliation doesn't happen, I think it's very possible that the progressives would block infrastructure from being enacted. So, it's really a high wire act for the Democrats here. Two of the president's very top priorities seem to have become completely tied together.

Jon Fansmith: Yeah. And moving somewhat from a bipartisan issue to an incredibly partisan issue, there has actually been action on the debt ceiling. You want to tell people what has happened on the debt ceiling?

Terry Hartle: Yes. We handle this in the way that Washington handles so many things very well. We kicked the can down the road. When Senator McConnell briefly withdrew his objection to Republican support for action on the debt ceiling, the Democrats got 10 votes and they kicked the debt ceiling out by around 500 billion dollars. This is likely to last until the middle of December, maybe it lasts until early January. So we're seeing a whole bunch of things that might happen here in December and January that could be very important. It is possible, of course, that you would see a massive reconciliation bill, an infrastructure bill, a debt ceiling bill, a 2022 fiscal year spending bills, all being wrapped into some monster package in December or January. But I think what pushing the debt ceiling out did is it probably reset the clock for Congress on reconciliation and infrastructure.

Jon Fansmith: Yeah, and of course people who are watching this are probably aware that this giant package at the end of the year right before the holidays is sort of how Congress has been passing legislation the last few years, so that would be very much in keeping with recent practice. This is another one of those great questions where it allows you to prognosticate a little bit, particularly since it's totally outside your area of expertise, I like asking you it, how would a debt default on behalf of the United States affect higher education?

Terry Hartle: Well, the sort of standard answer here is that a debt default, a true debt default would have catastrophic financial consequences across the board for the American economy and all institutions in it. Some people say that the risk of a default is actually pretty low because the financial markets would see default as a political action, not a statement on the underlying strength of the American economy. But you're making a big bet if you're thinking in those terms. We have never tried breaching the debt ceiling. It's hard to imagine that serious people think we could do that without significant consequences. Frankly, it's a risk nobody should be comfortable taking.

Jon Fansmith: Great. Well, moving from what's happening in Congress to what's happening in the administration, the Biden administration recently issued an executive order related to COVID-19 and efforts to contain the spread of the pandemic, limit the pandemic, you want to talk a little bit about what that means for colleges and universities?

Terry Hartle: That's absolutely correct. September 9th, the president issued an executive order designed to significantly increase the number of people who are vaccinated. It effects industries and organizations across the board in American society, but we're still coming to understand how this is going to work in practice. In the executive order, the president gave the executive branch agencies until October 8th to lay out their plans for providing guidance about how to implement the executive order. Very few agencies, including the Department of Education, have said anything of note. So a lot of campuses are sort of saying, "Well, we're now 10 days past the guidelines. We're federal contractors. We got to do this stuff. What should we do?" Well, the choices are really almost binary. One choice it's, well, we'll wait a little longer and see what the administration comes up with. The other choice is to say, "Well, we got to do this so let's just do our best and move forward." Of course, the risk of the second is if the agencies come out later and say, "You did it the wrong way," you've got a problem. So we've started to communicate with senior level political people in multiple agencies asking if they have any idea whether or not the agency is going to release guidance to help institutions, colleges, and universities measure and plan for the implementation of this. It's not happening as fast as the Biden administration wanted, very little in government happens as fast as people want. This is no different in that regard. Now, the questions are pretty significant. And one of the questions we talk about, just to use an illustration, is are work study students who might be engaged in a federal contract perhaps as research assistance or something else, are they federal employees? We just don't know, and the department hasn't said anything.

And again, this is not that the department is unusual. Few agencies have said anything. We did learn last week that a couple of federal science agencies have begun to tell institutions that they will have to sign contract modifications indicating that they will have everyone working on a federal contract vaccinated. NASA is apparently the first federal agency to get to this point. We understand from some institutions in some states that they have received contract modifications and been given 48 hours to sign them. Now contract modifications are the document that the government contracting officials use when they want to change terms and conditions of a contract. So a lot of institutions, and it's getting to the research institutions first, are starting to see agencies express themselves in ways that suggest how they want to proceed. Obviously if you are in a university in a red state you could be caught in the middle between federal research funding and your state political establishment, not a very comfortable place to be. But we'll have to wait and see. Again, it's slower than anticipated. What we don't know is if we're ever going to get anything from the agencies or if the agencies are just going to count on the organizations to do the best they can with whatever limited guidance comes out.

Jon Fansmith: And just so people watching know, ACE has a short publication that offers some help in this area that we recently published with the work of our great colleagues, Peter McDonough and others, that's available on our website and the link to that will be in the note for this episode. Terry, moving from the executive work to other actions in the administration, the department of education recently began the first round of negotiated rule making on a number of issues under Title IV of the Higher Education Act. Can you catch us up on what they're talking about and what the import of that is?

Terry Hartle: Sure. Well, I think at the same time we look at Capitol Hill and say we've had this derailment in Philadelphia and nothing is moving. We are seeing a number of things start to move in executive branch agencies, particularly some things in the department of education that down the road could have a significant impact on our students and on institutions themselves. So while we might tend to be discouraged by the lack of action on reconciliation, changes can be made in important ways through federal agencies that will help us as well. Our Department of Education has begun negotiated rule making this mostly around student loan repayment and default terms and conditions. This is going to be controversial whether or not they will get to consensus. The department has announced that they will start another negotiated rule making session in January to deal with issues related to 90/10, that one likely to be fairly technical but still 90/10 has been a hot button issue for the last couple of years.

Jon Fansmith: And Terry, just to interrupt you, on the off chance somebody watching this isn't familiar with what 90/10 is, can you just give a brief rundown of what that is issue is?

Terry Hartle: Sure. Essentially under the 90/10 regulation, for-profit colleges have to show that they get no more than 90% of their revenue from the federal government. The goal here is just to make sure that some individuals spend their own money to pursue education and training at those institutions. It's been a part of the Higher Education Act since 1992, it has been controversial since 1992, and the controversy is not likely to abate, but we'll see another neg reg session coming up on that starting in January.

Jon Fansmith: Yeah. And one of the things that, that negotiable making panel is talking about is Public Service Loan Forgiveness. And as they look at changes to that program, the department itself announced something kind of extraordinary in terms of how they will handle this program at least on a short term basis going forward.

Terry Hartle: Yeah, Public Service Loan Forgiveness has been around for about 10 years and it's been something of an embarrassment for that entire amount of time. Congress wrote a program that really could not be implemented. The Obama administration tried to put regulations in place, but found themselves getting so tangled up in the thicket of legislative provisions that they couldn't accomplish it before they left office. Trump administration wasn't terribly interested in doing this anyway and the complexity of the legislation gave them a pretty straightforward way to say, "Look, we can't implement this the way you have written the law." Kicked the ball back to Congress. Of course, it went nowhere. A couple of weeks ago, 60 Minutes had a special about the Public Service Loan Forgiveness. As you might suspect, it was absolutely devastating to the department, even though in truth, the fundamental problem here is with the statute. The department takes the blame for it, but Congress wrote an unworkable law. As 60 Minutes neared the airing of the segment, and if you haven't seen that segment, I'd encourage you to take a look at it, as 60 Minutes neared the airing of that, the Department of Education simply announced that they were going to take some unilateral action to address problems that have bedeviled Public Service Loan Forgiveness from the start. They will do as much as they can under executive action. Frankly, they will probably push the edge of the envelope in terms of what they can do legally, but the department is made clear to us that they will also need legislative changes in the program if it is to function fully as was anticipated when Congress enacted it.

I've talked to the Department of Education officials. I said, "Gosh, if you give us a list of the changes, we can get to work on it right away. Maybe we could get them in the fiscal year of 2022 through spending bills." And the department's response is, "We hope to have the legislative changes ready by the time the budget is submitted in February." So this is not going to happen quickly. But this is one area where the department gets a great credit for simply saying, "Look, it's no longer acceptable to have this program on the books and to have 98% of the applicants, many of whom have dotted every I and crossed every T, find themselves out of luck and therefore we are going to make some unilateral changes to the program." And that's where we are right now. So I think this is a genuine big deal. I think it'd be better if the department didn't have to rely on Congress to pass legislation, to straighten out more of it, but if the department says they need legislation to fix it properly, then they need legislation to fix it properly.

Jon Fansmith: And related to this sort of general subject, we have a question from Shea Boyd, and apologies if I'm mispronouncing your name, but more broadly, what can we expect regarding student loan debt and loan forgiveness?

Terry Hartle: I think where this is going to end up is pretty much what we're seeing now with the department making as many incremental changes to loan forgiveness, loan discharge as they possibly can through executive action. As you all know, during the campaign, the Democrats made a very big deal of saying they wanted across the board student loan forgiveness. The number that was most bandied about was $10,000, but some leading Democrats, including Senate majority leader, Chuck Schumer, called for forgiving $50,000 in debt for everyone who was repaying a federal student loan. We estimated that the cost of forgiving $10,000 in debt for every borrower who has debt would be 350 billion dollars in one year. $50,000 would cost almost a trillion dollars in one year. When the number got that big, there was never any chance that Congress was going to enact legislation to make this happen. Congress wanted the Biden administration to unilaterally declare that they were going to forgive debt. The Biden administration argued as best they could, "We don't think we legal authority to do that." And eventually Speaker Pelosi stepped in and said the Department of Education doesn't have the authority to do that. So we're not going to see across the board loan forgiveness in this administration for a couple of reasons. We might see significant changes to borrow defenses, close school, discharge disability, discharge, public service loan forgiveness that will help an awful lot of borrowers, but it is not going to be anywhere near as much as people were talking about last year during the campaign and in the first couple months of the administration. At the end of the day, I don't think this is a surprise. That was a political argument. It polled very well. People liked it because they understood it, but the cost of doing it from the beginning was clearly going to be an enormous challenge in light of all the other things the Democrats want to do.

Jon Fansmith: Yeah, and this is where it's interesting like reconciliation, a sort of intraparty fight among Democrats. And just related to that, a bunch of house progressives sent a letter to the department last week, asking them to release their legal justification for saying they couldn't forgive debt unilaterally. So, this continues to sort of that fight about whether Congress can do it or should do it and the administration can do it or should do it.

Terry Hartle: Yeah, it continues to be an issue and progressives will continue to push the issue, but the problem is it's really hard to force the department of education to do it if they say they don't have the legal authority. And since the department has said so explicitly that they don't have the legal authority, it's going to be very hard for the Department of Education to suddenly change its mind and say, "Oh, well we were wrong. We do have the authority." So I'm afraid we will not get across the board loan forgiveness. Best case scenario, I think is we might see substantial changes to some of the repayment, borrower defense, discharge, and Public Service Loan Forgiveness Provisions that are already in place.

Jon Fansmith: And sticking with student loans, the Department of Education has a big transition coming up at the end of January, the freeze on student loan repayments expires. And as of February 1st, borrowers will be expected to start repaying their loans. What's going on in that phase?

Terry Hartle: Well in March 2020, Congress, as the nation entered the pandemic, Congress enacted a freeze on student loan repayments, and on the institution of default proceedings. Congress said, "Until further notice, nobody has to repay a student loan and the federal government will not institute default proceeding against any borrower." Now this essentially froze the student loan system. We have about 40 million people repaying student loans, about 22 million of them took advantage of the pause. The remainder continued to repay their student loans. At some point we all knew student loan repayments was going to begin again. It was originally scheduled to begin I think on October 1st. The Biden administration in the White House wanted to restart it on October 1st, the Department of Education convinced the White House they were not ready to start repayment on October 1st, so the administration kicked it down the road and repayments will now begin on February 1st. This is a little more complicated than it, well, this was always going to be complicated. It's now more complicated because three federal student loans servicers have announced that they will no longer service federal student loans. So the borrowers who have their loans in the hands of those servicers will soon find themselves hearing from new servicers that they've never had any dealing with.

Jon Fansmith: There's one other big news item that I know you want to talk about, and that's the NPRM regarding DACA.

Terry Hartle: Another area in which the Biden administration is doing something that is potentially very important to institutions and to certainly many of our students, the administration has laid out a notice of proposed rulemaking to establish DACA, Deferred Action Against Childhood Arrivals, in the code of federal regulations. This will give it more protection in the event that a judge would look at it and say, "This is not an established program." The department has published an NPRM. The comments will be due on November 29th, so it's still about six weeks away. We at ACE are working along with our colleagues in other associations to draft a response. Our goal is to have that response drafted first week in November and then we will share it with campuses that want to submit something to the federal government. We'll be able to give them a draft that will let them see what it is that we plan to say going forward. But this again is potentially very good news. It's not quite what we wanted. It's not a statutory approval. I don't think we're going to get statutory approval. This is the next best thing. It's not perfect, but it provides better protection than people in DACA have had up until now.

Jon Fansmith: Great. Well, we do have a lot of questions. Adam Cohen asks, "Would it make more sense to make a policy free?" And I think free community college here, "A six or seven year sunset so that it can be used as campaign fodder in case Biden takes his second term?"

Terry Hartle: Well, that's part of what the Democrats are thinking about. The Democrats are thinking, we'll put this in place for five years, because once we have it in place for five years nobody will want it to go away. It can become an issue in upcoming campaigns. We'll be the party of free community college, so, yeah, that's very much a part of their thinking.

Jon Fansmith: A question regarding the status of the work to change the VA incentive compensation provisions that are misaligned with ED's rule and enforcement.

Terry Hartle: Great question. There is a legislation in the House, a Republican bill and a Democratic bill that both would align the incentive compensation legislation exactly word for word with the Department of Education's language. VA is one of the few areas on Capitol Hill where people still think it's possible to pass legislation. It's a technical amendments bill and I think that there's a pretty good chance that this will happen because both Republicans and Democrats want to do it. The difference between the two bills, the Republicans want to offset the cost of making the change. The Democrats want to do it as an emergency. They don't want to offset the cost of the change. Substantively, the bills are pretty much the same and we are getting ready right now to send a letter to Congress, along with all our association colleagues thanking the Veterans Committee, both sides, in the House for moving forward this legislation and pledging to support it. Jon and I have a colleague, Anne Meehan, who is really the expert on all issues related to veterans, whether it's on the hill or in the agency. If any of you are so inclined or want to ask a specific question, you're better off asking Anne than anybody else in Washington. And you can reach her at ameehan,

Jon Fansmith: Yes. For whatever you do, don't ask Terry or I. Definitely ask Anne.

Terry Hartle: Well, we could make up an answer and we'll give them the right answer.

Jon Fansmith: Right. Yeah. We could make one up, but, anyway, thank you so much, Terry, and thanks for all of you watching.

As always, you can check out earlier episodes and subscribe to dotEDU on Apple, Google Podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher, or wherever you listen to your podcasts. For show notes and links to resources mentioned in the episode, you can go to our website at And while there, please take a short survey to let us know how we're doing. You can also email us at to give us suggestions on upcoming shows and guests. And a very special thank you to the producers who helped pull this podcast together, Laurie Arnston, Audrey Hamilton, Malcolm Moore, Anthony Trueheart, Catherine Ahmad, Carly O'Connell, and Fatma NGom. They do an incredible job making this happen and making Mushtaq, Sarah, and I sound as good as possible. And finally, before we leave, thank you so much for listening.

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