July Legislative Letter 📜 Affirmative Action; Debt Relief

July Legislative Letter 📜 Affirmative Action; Debt Relief

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July Legislative Letter 📜 Affirmative Action; Debt Relief

July 4, 2023

In this thread:

Updates in Higher Education

Affirmative Action

Debt Forgiveness

The Executive Branch

Department of Education

Response to Supreme Court Ruling

Student Loan Forgiveness

Gun Violence and Mental Health

The Legislative Branch: The White House and Other Agencies

118th Congress

Who’s on the hill?

Legislation

S.1968

H.R.2957

S.1349

H.R.3452

H.R.751

H.Res.110

H.R.302

S.136

H.R.322

State Legislatures

Curricular Prohibitions in Florida

Similar laws in:

Georgia

Iowa

Kansas

Missouri

Ohio

South Carolina

Texas

The Judicial Branch

Litigation: The Supreme Court

Affirmative Action

Debt Forgiveness

Related News

Relevant Reads

Diversity, Inclusion, and Social Justice

The State of Higher Education

Higher Education Policy

Reports and Presentations

Other

UPDATES IN HIGHER EDUCATION

The Supreme Court has ruled in favor of Students of Fair Admissions Inc. in Students of Fair Admissions Inc. vs President and Fellows of Harvard College and University of Carolina et al. This ruling may end race-conscious admissions in all public and private universities, explicitly exempting military academies. The majority opinion writes that in both Harvard and the University of North Carolina, their admissions process is focused heavily and unequally on race rather than merit to promote vague and “undefined educational benefits” of diversity. Their opinion is that this violates the fourteenth amendment citing “equal protection of the laws” for all citizens includes eliminating racial discrimination for everyone. The dissent highlights some of the issues, such as “health, wealth and well being,” that have plagued specifically minority citizens throughout history and argues that affirmative action is a way to close “race-linked gaps” that still exist today. The dissent also touches on the significance of the fourteenth amendment, writing that race is not the deciding factor when it comes to university admissions and that the Equal Protection Clause has always been used as a basis of racial equality in education, especially considering “society remains inherently unequal” in regards to race.

Long-awaited, the Supreme Court ruled against Biden in the Biden v. Nebraska decision, which was set to forgive $400 billion in student loan debt. In a 6-3 decision, the Supreme Court ruled the Biden administration overstepped its authority by enacting the loan forgiveness plan on the Heroes 2003 Act. “The [2003 law] provides no authorization for the Secretary’s plan even when examined using the ordinary tools of statutory interpretation — let alone ‘clear congressional authorization’ for such a program”, says Chief Justice Roberts. The dissent, written by Justice Kagan, writes the Biden administration had authority under the law to enact this plan, and the Court should not have taken the case, as the plaintiffs lacked standing to bring the case to the justices. The ripple effects of this decision will negatively impact 45 million Americans who have public student loans, as borrowers will begin loan repayments this summer. Analysts hypothesized that enacting this plan would benefit individuals with a low income and graduate students who typically take out PLUS loans.

THE EXECUTIVE BRANCH

DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION

Response to Supreme Court Ruling

Secretary Cardona responded to the recent court ruling striking down affirmative action programs at Harvard and The University of North Carolina. He emphasized that the Department of Education is committed to “equal access and opportunity for all students” and that diversity and inclusion is still a priority.

The Biden-Harris administration has taken “swift action” to ensure equality and diversity remains a part of our educational system. They will continue to find ways to fix the loan system, provide clarity and training on enrollment practices and transparency, and prioritizing college completion.

Student Loan Forgiveness

In response to the Biden v. Nebraska decision, President Biden and the Secretary of Education, Miguel Cardona, announced they would attempt to waive student loan debt through the 1965 Higher Education Act. They will also implement changes to income-driven repayment plans to cut monthly payments in half for borrowers.

Gun Violence and Mental Health

Biden’s Bipartisan Safer Communities Act (BSCA), introduced to prevent and respond to gun violence in communities, was given additional attention from Secretary Cardona this past month as a letter highlighting resources available to state governors. Aspects discussed in the letter include developing school-based mental health support and increasing treatment services for individuals and communities affected by trauma caused by gun violence. Check back for updates in higher education.

THE LEGISLATIVE BRANCH: THE WHITE HOUSE AND OTHER AGENCIES

118th CONGRESS

Who’s on the hill?

The House Committee on Education and the Workforce: Oversees all educational programs and provides policies in Education, Human Services and Workforce.

The Committee on Science and Space Technology: Oversees all civilian energy, astronautical, aviation, marine, weather, and science etc. research and development, as well as the laws, programs and policies connected to them.

The Budget Committee: Oversees aggregate levels of spending, revenue, surplus or deficit and public debt. Otherwise known as ‘the power of the purse’.

LEGISLATION

S.1968

S.1968 – A bill to modify the annual and aggregate limits of Federal Unsubsidized Stafford Loans for graduate and professional students, and to terminate Federal Direct PLUS Loans for graduate and professional students, and for other purposes | Congress.gov | Library of Congress

Summary: Resolution to reduce Federal Unsubsidized Stafford Loans for graduate and professional students, and to eliminate Federal Direct PLUS Loans for graduate and professional students. 

Actions: Introduced in the Senate, Referred to the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions. 14 JUNE 23.

H.R.2957

H.R.2957 – 118th Congress (2023-2024): College Transparency Act | Congress.gov | Library of Congress

Summary: Resolution to establish a postsecondary student data system which includes evaluating patterns of enrollment, progression and completion, evaluating costs and financial aid, providing accurate, complete and customizable information about postsecondary education to incoming students and their families.

Actions: Referred to the House Committee on Education and the Workforce. 27 APR 23.

S.1349

S.1349 – 118th Congress (2023-2024): College Transparency Act | Congress.gov | Library of Congress

Summary: Resolution to establish a postsecondary student data system which includes evaluating patterns of enrollment, progression and completion, evaluating costs and financial aid, providing accurate, complete and customizable information about postsecondary education to incoming students and their families.

Actions: Read twice and referred to the Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions. 27 APR 23.

H.R.3452

H.R.3452 – Combating Predatory Lending in Higher Education Act of 2023 | Congress.gov | Library of Congress

Summary: Resolution to require that certain loans made to parents on behalf of a dependent student and to graduate students are included in the definition of cohort default rate under the Higher Education Act of 1965, and the Secretary of Education must report default rates for loans.

Actions: Introduced in the House, Referred to the House Committee on Education and the Workforce. 17 MAY 23.

H.R.751

H.R.751 – 118th Congress (2023-2024): To amend title XVIII of the Social Security Act to require as a condition of satisfying the definition of an approved medical residency training program for purposes of payments under Medicare for costs related to graduate medical education for hospitals operating such a program to submit information to encourage more equitable treatment of osteopathic and allopathic candidates in the residency application and review process, and for other purposes. | Congress.gov | Library of Congress

Summary: Hospitals may use some of their Medicare payments for residency and training programs, specifically for their osteopathic and allopathic sections and candidates.

Actions: Introduced in the House. Referred to the Committee on Ways and Means, and in addition to the Committee on Energy and Commerce, for a period to be subsequently determined by the Speaker, in each case for consideration of such provisions as fall within the jurisdiction of the committee concerned. Referred to the Subcommittee on Health. 10 FEB 23.

H.Res.110

H.Res.110 – 118th Congress (2023-2024): Supporting the goals and ideals of “Career and Technical Education Month”. | Congress.gov | Library of Congress

Summary: Resolution to support and celebrate career and technical education across the U.S.

Actions: Introduced in the House, referred to the House Committee on Education and the Workforce. 8 FEB 23.

H.R. 302

H.R.302 – 118th Congress (2023-2024): To direct the Secretary of Energy to provide financial assistance to graduate students and postdoctoral researchers pursuing certain courses of study relating to cybersecurity and energy infrastructure, and for other purposes. | Congress.gov | Library of Congress

Summary: Requires the Department of Energy (DOE) to establish an Energy Cybersecurity University Leadership Program to provide financial assistance, research experience, and training experience to graduate students and researchers studying cybersecurity competencies within energy infrastructure needs.

Actions: Passed the House, received in the Senate, and referred to the Committee on Energy and Natural Resources. 7 FEB 23.

S.136

S.136 – 118th Congress (2023-2024): ISA Student Protection Act of 2023 | Congress.gov | Library of Congress

Summary: To provide a consumer protection framework necessary to support the growth of accessible, affordable, and accountable financing options for postsecondary education, and for other purposes.

Actions: Introduced in the Senate, referred to the Committee on Finance. 30 JAN 23.

H.R.322

H.R.322 – 118th Congress (2023-2024): Educational Opportunity and Success Act of 2023 | Congress.gov | Library of Congress

Summary: To modify the Federal TRIO programs, raising the minimum grant budget and adjusting the language of the Higher Education Act of 1965

Actions: Introduced in the House, referred to the House Committee on Education and the Workforce. 12 JAN 23.

STATE LEGISLATURES

Florida

A new law has been passed that gives the State Board of Governors more power over Florida public universities. The new law also changes hiring practices that would allow universities to remove diversity and inclusion statements, as well as allows a professor’s tenure to be called into question at any time.

A link to the law can be found here.

It also forces public universities to remove Gender Studies, Critical Race Theory, and Intersectionality degrees and prohibits allocating funding to university programs that support these causes and ideas.

Many other states have started this process with their own bills or pushed laws through quietly, most times copying verbatim the new Florida Law. The list of other states and their bills is as such, updated as frequently as possible:

Georgia

Iowa

Kansas

Missouri

Ohio

South Carolina

Texas

THE JUDICIAL BRANCH

LITIGATION: THE SUPREME COURT

Affirmative Action

Please refer to our first headline story for information. 

NAGPS Response: Affirmative action started in the 60’s to legally combat the widespread discrimination faced by minorities, especially Black Americans. Universities were prohibited from segregating or discriminating on the basis of race; which served as the basis for quota programs. Less than a decade later quotas were struck down, as “reverse discrimination” became the legal argument. Affirmative action programs at various universities have undergone criticism and changes that focus less on race, but still makes it an important factor in considering higher education access. 

While merit and achievements are an important aspect of university admissions in their own right, we have to understand the greater context in providing opportunities to historically oppressed students. Research shows that affirmative action has helped minority students earn advanced degrees and that diversity creates a better educational environment for all students. 

Debt Forgiveness

Please refer to our second headline story for information.

NAGPS Response: Student loan debt is the second highest stressor for graduate students (El-Ghoroury et al., 2012). The rising cost of a college degree is reflected in growing student loan debt, especially among individuals with low income and people of color. Although student loan forgiveness is a band-aid on the more significant problem of increasing tuition rates, implementing debt cancellation would likely alleviate the financial burden and stress stemming from student loan payments. Importantly, canceling student loans is one avenue to reduce the racial wealth gap. Although there are various ways to reduce student loan debt, such as lower interest rates or curbing predatory student lending practices, cancellation is one step towards healthier, equitable lives for all students.

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The vision of the National Association of Graduate-Professional Students (NAGPS) is to be a nationally representative and internationally recognized Association that advocates for institutional and structural changes to improve graduate and professional education in the United States.

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