Cynthia A. Littlefield, Vice President for Federal Relations, AJCU
While Congress is working for only ten days in September, the reauthorization of the Higher Education Act (HEA) continues. Congress is embroiled in a debate over agreeing to the Iran nuclear deal, but whether the Federal government will continue to run after September 30th (the end of the fiscal year) remains in question.
The higher education community has a serious pressing matter in that the Perkins Loan Program will permanently shut down after September 30th unless Congress extends its authorization. Unfortunately, it will cost the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) $564 million to extend the Perkins Loan Program for one year. On September 9th, a press conference was held by Representatives Mark Pocan (D-WI) and Louise Slaughter (D-NY) to push Congress to extend the Perkins Loan Program. Representatives from the National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators, American Council on Education and AJCU spoke during the conference. This was part of the national effort made by the Campus-Based Aid Coalition (which AJCU organized) to save Perkins Loans. You can watch the press conference here on YouTube and see photos hereon Facebook.
This week, grassroots efforts to swamp Congress with “Save Perkins Loans” signage will occur, and hopefully build on our national efforts. AJCU is asking all of our Jesuit institutions to weigh in with their Members and Senators to save this vital loan program for both undergraduate and graduate students. Jesuit institutions realize a total of $45.5 million from the Federal government for Perkins Loans, which served 18,000 students in the 2013-14 academic year.
Beyond extending the Perkins Loan Program, saving all of the campus-based aid programs, including the Supplemental Education Opportunity Grant program (SEOG), is a key priority for AJCU. Serving the poor and collaborating on social justice issues are key to the Jesuit mission. Yet, there is a growing desire to “simplify Federal student aid.” In the case of the Perkins Loan Program and SEOG, simplifying equals elimination. It would be a tragedy to take away successful access programs for our nation’s poorest students.
HEA is also going to present challenges to finding solutions to emerging sexual assault cases on our nation’s campuses. Early preparation, awareness and fine tuning the campus judiciary proceedings are part of the current discussions. We also expect that the Clery Act on Campus Safety will be amended in this process.
Higher education has always relied on the excellent reputation of the accrediting process as providing checks and balances for accountability. Yet, this HEA cycle may try to take more draconian measures to eliminate the regional status of accreditation.
AJCU will be there every step of the way during HEA reauthorization, and will analyze these issues with our Federal Relations Network during the annual AJCU Federal Relations Conference in Washington, D.C. on October 7th and 8th.