The House education committee approved legislation that would change the federal law governing colleges and universities, student applications for federal aid, and other higher education issues.
Lawmakers on the panel gave the thumbs-up to the Promoting Real Opportunity, Success, and Prosperity through Education Reform (PROSPER) Act late Tuesday. The legislation, approved by a 23-17 committee vote, was authored by Rep. Virginia Foxx, R-N.C., the chairwoman of the committee, and Rep. Brett Guthrie, R-Ky. It now goes to the full House for consideration.
Among other revisions to the current Higher Education Act, the PROSPER Act would streamline the Free Application for Federal Student Aid form that prospective students use. It would also institute a new College Dashboard intended to give students information about average debt at individual institutions. And it would reauthorize the Pell Grant program for low-income students attending college, change maximum federal loan limits, and change institutions eligibility for receiving federal student loan aid.
In addition, the legislation repeals Title II in current law that governs teacher preparation. The PROSPER ACT also ends TEACH grants, which provides grants to undergraduate and graduate students who agree to teach subjects like math and science in high-needs schools for a certain number of years.
In prepared remarks introducing the bill, Foxx said it “simplifies and improves student aid” and “promotes innovation, access, and completion.”
Revising the Higher Education Act has been a priority for GOP leaders in Congress in the last few years, particularly since President Barack Obama signed the Every Student Succeeds Act in 2015. The higher education law was last reauthorized in 2008. Republicans have put a priority on decreasing regulations and federal oversight of colleges and universities.
Through a proposed amendment, Democrats unsuccessfully attempted to restore Title II to the PROSPER Act, as well as TEACH Grants. Those attempts were unsuccessful, although Democrats argued that they were key to helping students be prepared for postsecondary life, and to attracting people into the teaching profession.
“The PROSPER Act is another step in a long line of Republican attacks on teachers and education,” said Rep. Mark Takano, D-Calif. “The majority is creating a system that will stymie the pipeline of prepared and effective teachers and school leaders.”
However, Foxx said the amemdment was out of step with the PROSPER Act: “It does not help us achieve the goal of the underlying bill.”
Democrats also failed in their attempt to restore the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program to the legislation, through an amendment from Rep. Joe Courtney, D-Conn. Teachers and others working in education can currently use the program to have their loans forgiven if they make payments on a certain schedule, along with other conditions.
Screen capture of Rep. Virginia Foxx, R-N.C., the chairwoman of the House education committee, during consideration of the PROSPECT Act on Tuesday.