Rep. Wild’s Landmark Legislation to Simplify Student Loans, Expand Mental Health Access Passes Committee
WASHINGTON – This morning, U.S. Representative Susan Wild (PA-07) voted to pass H.R. 4670, the Simplifying Student Loans Act and H.R. 4327, the Enhancing Mental Health and Suicide Prevention Through Campus Planning Act, through the House Education and Labor Committee. Both bills are included as key components of the College Affordability Act (CAA), a comprehensive overhaul of the higher education system to lower the cost of college for students and families, improve the quality of higher education through stronger accountability, and expand opportunity by providing students the support and flexibility they need to succeed. The CAA also includes pieces of H.R. 4577, the Expanding Disability Access to Higher Education Act, introduced by Wild.
This landmark legislation comes more than 10 years after the last reauthorization of the Higher Education Act (HEA) and at a time when the combination of rising tuition and inconsistent quality is undermining students’ access to the benefits of a college degree.
“The runaway cost of college has left low-income and middle-class families behind, and it is past time we reinvest in higher education in this country,” Wild said. “To keep our economy growing from the middle out we have to invest in every aspect of higher education for students from every background. I am proud that this effort includes my bills – which prioritize an investment in tomorrow’s workforce by supporting all students every step of the way – from enrolling in college, to succeeding in college, to paying off student loans after college. This legislation finally makes student loans easier to take out, simpler to understand, and cheaper to pay off because supporting our student loan borrowers is good for students and good for our economy.”
More on the Simplifying Student Loans Act:
Americans hold approximately $1.5 trillion in student loan debt, and federal loans account for the vast majority of this debt. Research shows that borrowers in income-based repayment plans have better outcomes, lower monthly loan payments, and are less likely to default on their student loans. The Simplifying Student Loans Act replaces the numerous existing repayment plans with one fixed repayment plan and one income-based repayment plan and includes mechanisms to encourage borrowers to enroll in income-based repayment plans. By consolidating loan repayment plans and capping how much of a person’s monthly discretionary income is required to pay toward student loans, this important legislation provides relief to the 44 million Americans who already have student loans and lessens the financial strain on current and future borrowers to keep them on track to successfully repay their loans and avoid default.
This bill is endorsed by the National Education Association, The Institute for College Access & Success (TICAS), and the American Federation of Teachers.
In 2018, more than 300,000 college students attempted suicide and 1,400 died by suicide. Currently, in the United States suicide is the second leading cause of death for individuals between the ages of 15-24, with 6,252 deaths by suicide in 2017. The bipartisan Enhancing Mental Health and Suicide Prevention on College Campuses Act helps fill the gap in unmet mental health needs of college students by requiring the Department of Education to coordinate with the Department of Health and Human Services to encourage institutions of higher education to develop and implement comprehensive mental health and suicide preventions plans.
More on the Expanding Disability Access to Higher Education Act:
While postsecondary enrollment nationwide is at an all-time high, the rate of enrollment and completion for students with disabilities lags far behind their peers in the general population. When they do enroll, students with disabilities often face barriers to success, including lack of social supports, inaccessible curriculum materials, unavailable educational assistive technology, and continued biases and prejudices regarding their abilities. The portions of the bipartisan Expanding Disability Access to Higher Education Act which are included in the CAA address these barriers by increasing funding for the Federal TRIO Programs which support a significant number of first generation and low-income students, including students with disabilities, in entering and graduating from college. Also included in the CAA are provisions which establish or improve Offices of Accessibility at institutions of higher education. These offices should support students with disabilities and help faculty and staff learn how to better support students with disabilities.
This bill is endorsed by the National Association of Councils on Developmental Disabilities (NACDD), the Autism Society of America, the National Center for Learning Disabilities (NCLD), the National Association of State Directors of Developmental Disabilities Services (NASDDS), the National Association of School Psychologists, and 10 other organizations.
More on the College Affordability Act:
- Tackles the rising cost of tuition by restoring state and federal investments in public colleges and universities, which will reduce the burden that has been shifted to students and their families.
- Makes college affordable for low- and middle-income students by increasing the value of Pell Grants.
- Eases the burden of student loans by making existing student loans cheaper and easier to pay off.
- Cracks down on predatory for-profit colleges that defraud students, veterans, and taxpayers.
- Holds all schools accountable for providing students a quality education that leads to a rewarding career.
- Improves students’ safety on campus by blocking Secretary DeVos’s survivor-blaming Title IX rule and introducing stronger accountability to track and prevent cases of sexual assault, harassment, and hazing.
- Expands students’ access to high-quality programs by making Pell Grants available for short-term programs.
- Helps improve graduation rates by providing stronger wraparound services to keep students in school and on track.
- Invests in the critical institutions that enroll underserved students by increasing and permanently reauthorizing mandatory funding for Historically Black Colleges and Universities, Tribal Colleges and Universities (TCUs), and other Minority Serving Institutions.