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JFF's Response to the Student Aid Improvement Act of 2019

September 30, 2019

Mary Gardner Clagett Senior Director
Lexi Barrett

The United States needs a transformed postsecondary education system that can keep up with the changing talent demands of today’s economy, especially as the future of work evolves. For that reason, JFF urges Congress to move quickly toward a broad reauthorization of the Higher Education Act (HEA), rather than taking a piecemeal approach, as proposed in the Senate last week.

The Student Aid Improvement Act of 2019, introduced last week by Senator Lamar Alexander, chair of the Senate Health Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee, is a package of eight bipartisan proposals that would combine to make important changes in the HEA. While we support many of the provisions in the new legislation, the proposal does not address other urgent higher education issues, such as data transparency, college affordability, student success, and accreditation and other issues related to institutional accountability.

Congress would be shortsighted to miss the opportunity to put forward a full reauthorization of the HEA.

JFF is pleased to see that the proposed package of bills includes simplification of the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, permanent funding for Historically Black Colleges and Universities and other minority-serving institutions, Second Chance Pell, and Pell for short-term credentials. However, we were disappointed to see that the proposal for short-term Pell leaves out key quality controls that were included in the JOBS Act and also that it opens short-term Pell to proprietary institutions.

Congress would be shortsighted to miss the opportunity to put forward a full reauthorization of the HEA that tackles all the issues that need to be addressed to transform our nation’s postsecondary education system so that it works for all students.

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