Sens. Bill Cassidy (R-LA), Steve Daines (R-MT), Tommy Tuberville (R-AL), Chuck Grassley (R-IA), Tim Scott (R-SC), and John Cornyn (R-TX) introduced five bills in the Senate that would impose a number of new requirements on universities that are aimed at ensuring prospective student loan borrowers are aware of the costs of their loans. One of the bills also limits student loan borrowing by graduate students.
The legislative package comes days after President Joe Biden vetoed a Congressional Review Act resolution that would have eliminated his signature plan to cancel up to $20,000 in federal student loans for borrowers who make less than $125,000 per year. The plan is currently on hold due to court challenges, but the Supreme Court is expected to rule on the plan’s legality in the coming days.
“Our federal higher education financing system contributes more to the problem than the solution,” Cassidy said of the introduced bills. “Colleges and universities using the availability of federal loans to increase their tuitions have left too many students drowning in debt without a path for success. Unlike President Biden’s student loan schemes, this plan addresses the root causes of the student debt crisis. It puts downward pressure on tuition and empowers students to make the educational decisions that put them on track to academically and financially succeed.”
Each bill introduced implements new rules the senators say will lead to lower tuition at colleges and universities “that have used the availability of federal loans to artificially increase their prices.”
The College Transparency Act, introduced by Cassidy, changes higher education data reporting requirements that the senators say will “ensurestudents and families have better information on student success and outcomes” when considering legislation.
Another bill introduced by Grassley creates a universal financial aid award letter format that colleges would have to follow, while another bill requires students to receive an annual report on their expected monthly payments and expected salary after graduating.
The biggest policy change for the federal student loan program is contained in Cornyn’s Streamlining Accountability and Value in Education for Students Act, which would place significant restrictions on the ability of students to receive federal student loans if half of the students who receive a bachelor’s degree in a given field do not earn a salary above a median high school graduate. The legislation has similar rules for graduate degrees but uses the median salary of a graduate with a bachelor’s degree as the benchmark.
“This bill will increase accountability and ensure student loans are paying for degrees that actually produce the higher income necessary for graduates to repay them, saving taxpayers nearly $50 billion,” Cornyn said at a press conference Wednesday.
The legislative package is not likely to pass in the Democratic-controlled Senate. Cassidy, who is the ranking member on the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee, said that while he has yet to bring the bills to Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY), there was no reason why the bills should not be bipartisan.
“They’re not partisan [bills],” Cassidy said. “They are something that just brings information to the student, whether as a student or the borrower.”
Senate Democrats, led by Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), introduced their own bill Wednesday that would make public college tuition-free for students who come from single-parent households with an annual income below $125,000 and married households with an annual income below $250,000.
“In the 21st century, a free public education system that goes from kindergarten through high school is no longer good enough,” Sanders said in a press release. “The time is long overdue to make public colleges and universities tuition-free and debt-free for working families. Education is one of the keys to a successful democracy and we must make it easier, not harder, for young people to obtain the degrees they have worked so hard for.”