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Higher Education/Student Loans




The Higher Education Act (HEA) is up for reauthorization in the 114th Congress. First passed in 1965 to ensure that every individual has access to higher education, regardless of income, the law governs the nation’s student-aid programs, federal aid to colleges, and oversight of teacher preparation.  

Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee Chairman Lamar Alexander (R-TN) is aiming for Committee action on HEA reauthorization by summer and a bill on the Senate floor by fall. House Education and the Workforce Chairman John Kline (R-MN) plans to take up HEA reauthorization this year as well.  

NEA Priorities for HEA Reauthorization

  • Make college more affordable. NEA’s nationwide campaign, Degrees Not Debt, aims to make higher education accessible to all segments of America’s increasingly diverse student population, including adult learners. NEA-supported steps that would help do so include: 
    • Reinstating year-round Pell Grants 
    • Allowing federal student loans to be refinanced when interest rates decline 
    • Encouraging students to pursue careers in education or other forms of public service through HEA loan forgiveness programs 
    • Expanding access to dual enrollment and early college programs
    • Streamlining federal loan repayment plans to create a single income-based option with affordable monthly payments for struggling borrowers 
    • Restoring federally subsidized loans for graduate students
    • Making all contingent faculty eligible for public service loan forgiveness, not just full-time faulty
    • Permitting private student loans to be discharged in bankruptcy
    • Providing incentives for states to reinvest in public higher education
    • Helping students begin a pathway to postsecondary education by eliminating community college tuition 
  • Improve teacher preparation. To help ensure teachers are profession-ready from the first day they enter the classroom, encourage comprehensive residencies that go beyond traditional student teaching and require teacher candidates to demonstrate that they have the skills and knowledge necessary for effective practice—for example, by completing a classroom-based performance assessment.  
  • Recognize educators as stakeholders. Under traditional principles of shared governance in higher education—principles that NEA advocates—faculty and staff participate in the governance of their institutions. Faculty should have primary responsibility for determining curricula, methods of instruction, and subject matter; establishing requirements for degrees and certificates; reviewing institutional budgets; and making recommendations on financial issues that impact academic programs.

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Americans deserve degrees, not debt

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