This week, the U.S. House of Representatives approved a bill to link interest rates on student loans to economic factors; if the economy improves, interest rates would rise. The bill, an amendment to the Higher Education Act (HEA), has already been approved by the U.S. Senate and will likely soon be signed into law by President Obama.
Once enacted, the new law would impact postsecondary students and their families starting this fall with interest rates of:
- 3.9 percent interest rates for undergraduates (subsidized and unsubsidized Stafford loans)
- 5.4 percent interest rates for graduate students
- 6.4 percent interest rates for parents
The White House notes that the new loan rates would immediately impact 11 million borrowers and reduce average undergraduate interest costs by $1,500.
Though the amendment successfully passed the House and the Senate, the topic of student loan interest rates is likely to emerge again as the reauthorization of HEA begins to take shape this fall.
Reauthorization of the Higher Education Act
The House Education and the Workforce Committee asked education stakeholders to submit their views on policies that should be included in the upcoming reauthorization of HEA. NASDCTEc has worked with members in the higher education community to identify our broad priorities for HEA, which include improving data alignment between key pieces of legislation, reducing barriers to financial aid for traditional and non-traditional postsecondary students (including reinstating the Ability to Benefit option), and ensuring access to Title II funds for Career Technical Education (CTE) teacher preparation and professional development.
The Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) also expects to announce a call for public input on HEA reauthorization soon.
Reauthorization of the Workforce Investment Act
After a brief markup of the Workforce Investment Act of 2013 (WIA), or S. 1356, the Senate HELP Committee approved the bill by a vote of 18-3. An amendment to increase the accountability of Job Corps programs was included. The bill will next be considered by the full Senate.
NASDCTEc is pleased that Congress is moving forward with the reauthorization of WIA and has taken into consideration several areas that are important for CTE, including promoting programs that result in industry-recognized postsecondary credentials and align with the needs of local economies.
However, the bill passed by the HELP Committee included an area of major concernâ€“ a funding infrastructure mechanism for One-Stop programs under WIA â€“ that would negatively impact CTE by siphoning funding from the Carl D. Perkins Career Technical Education Act (Perkins). Read more about this issue and our concerns in this blog.
As the bill moves to the full Senate, please encourage your networks to contact your Senators. Ask them not to use Perkins funds for WIA infrastructure, and urge them to maintain current law.
FY 2014 Updates
At the end of this week, Congress leaves for summer recess without having reached agreement on FY 2014 spending bills, total spending levels, or what to do about sequestration. When they return to Capitol Hill in five weeks, members will have just three weeks to reach an agreement on these issues to avoid a possible government shut down on October 1, 2013.
On a conference call this week held by the Senate Democratic Steering and Outreach Committee, Chairman Mark Begich (D-AK) and Senator Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) spoke of the damage caused by sequestration and its negative impact on the economy and the middle class. The Senators encouraged listeners to use the Congressional recess wisely by contacting Congress members to specifically describe how sequestration is hurting constituents in their state or district. NASDCTEc urges you to contact your Congress members and tell them how sequestration is damaging CTE programs and your local economy.
Kara Herbertson, Research and Policy Manager