January 26, 2018: HEA Reauthorization
In December, the House Committee on Education and the Workforce approved a comprehensive bill to reauthorize the Higher Education Act of 1965 (HEA). This bill is being referred to as the PROSPER Act (Promoting Real Opportunity, Success, and Prosperity through Education Reform).
Although there are several provisions in the proposed bill that could negatively affect our students, Creighton University, and the communities we serve, our primary concern is the significant changes to federal student aid programs.
The committee is currently preparing the bill for the House floor, and is seeking input from other members of Congress. While the committee has done some thoughtful work on parts of the bill, overall, this legislation, if passed into law, will not help students. The effect could be dramatic, with millions of federal aid dollars at stake for Creighton students. Specific concerns about the proposed bill are that it would:
- Eliminate the GradPLUS loan program, which more than 1,600 of our current graduate and professional students access.
- Reduce the ability of parents to borrow sufficient funding through the ParentPLUS program. More than 300 undergraduate student families are accessing funds through this program. While some loan limits might be a reasonable step, the proposed limits will make it exceedingly difficult for many of our students to continue to attend Creighton.
- Eliminate the interest subsidy as part of the undergraduate student loan programs. This will result in lower-income students being charged interest while they are in school, substantially driving up the cost of student loans.
- Eliminate Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grants (SEOG), which have been in existence since 1972. These grants are designed to give Pell Grant students, who are most in need, additional grant aid. Loss of this program would have a profound effect on the lowest-income students at Creighton.
These provisions could have a significant negative effect on our students and our University. I urge you to contact our congressional representatives. Contact information for Nebraska’s U.S. House members can be found online: U.S. Rep. Don Bacon, U.S. Rep. Jeff Fortenberry, and U.S. Rep. Adrian Smith.
Let us encourage them to develop a bill that does not cut student aid or place fiscal penalties on colleges and universities that seek to educate low- and middle-income students.
Rev. Daniel S. Hendrickson, SJ