This week started with expectations that a downsized and revised student aid bill (reduced by $20 billion due to new CBO savings estimates) was only a day or two away from being released for public consumption. The Chronicle of Higher Education is reporting that Thursday's the day that more details will emerge:
Education Secretary Arne Duncan and the chairmen of the two education committees in Congress, Sen. Tom Harkin of Iowa and Rep. George Miller of California, have made plans to publicly outline the agreement on Thursday, aides said Wednesday."
Meanwhile, Roll Call is reporting that a Sunday vote is looking increasingly likely given the delay in getting a score from CBO:
"House Democrats are likely to hold votes on their health care reform overhaul on Sunday given a continuing delay in getting a score of the package from the Congressional Budget Office...Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Chairman Chris Van Hollen (Md.) said earlier Wednesday night that leaders hoped to get the CBO cost estimate by Thursday morning and then would wait 72 hours before voting on the bill."
As for the reason for the delay in getting a CBO score for the bill, Rep. Rob Andrews had this to say to The Hill:
"Andrews did say, though, that the CBO is also taking extra time to protect the legislation from invariable legal challenges to the reconciliation process, if not the eventual law itself.
“The reason it’s taking so long, in part, is that we want to be sure that we have a score that’s solid as a rock for procedural purposes and potentially litigation purposes down the road,” Andrews said. “We all assume that the same forces that fought this so vociferously in the Congress will fight it in the courts, and we want to be prepared for that.”
Meanwhile, several Republicans voiced opposition to the student loan reform bill:
- Rep. Buck McKeon (CA): "This bill will dramatically reshape the way students will pay for
college," McKeon said. The bill involves a change made in 1993 that
makes the Department of Education a primary source for student loans,
eliminating a percentage of private enterprise banks from the process
and complicating the loan process for college students.
"In this program they have passed in the House, they are going to tie all student loans into the 'reconciliation' and eliminate the private enterprise from the system," he said. "Any student getting a loan will have to go through the Department of Education. It will cost students more and they will get less service. It's one of the main reasons I am against the health care bill."
- The Washington Post also provided this quote from McKeon: "Rep. Howard P. "Buck" McKeon (R-Calif.) said the proposal would eliminate 30,000 loan industry jobs. "It boggles my mind," McKeon said."
- Senator Lamar Alexander (TN): "Alexander, who served as president of the University of Tennessee
and as education secretary under former President George H.W. Bush,
said direct lending would mean students would no longer be able to
choose between the 2,000 private lenders who currently offer student
Private lenders will be replaced "with the equivalent of four call centers," Alexander said, which will make the process of getting a student loan "about as friendly as going to the Department of Motor Vehicles for a driver's license."
Alexander also contended that direct lending would enable the government to overcharge students for their loans. The U.S. Department of Education will borrow money at an interest rate of 2.8 percent, lend it to students at 6.8 percent and spend the difference on new government programs, he said."
- New America Foundation's Higher Ed Watch Blog wrote this letter to respond to Sen. Alexander's claims.
- Meanwhile, Dr. Susan Neuman, a former official in the Dept of Education during the Bush Administration, provided her support for the bill in Roll Call: "As a lifelong Republican, I’ve watched with bewilderment as my party has missed some real opportunities. Yes, an opposition party must oppose. But quality legislation deserves our support, even if it comes from the other side, as long as it meets our long-standing principles. That’s why I fully endorse student loan reform and hope the Senate passes it. I join the six Republicans who voted for it in September with a majority of the Democrats in the House."
As for what will be in the slimmed down student aid reform bill, expect Pell Grants and deficit reduction to be the centerpieces of the bill given the reduction in the CBO savings estimate from earlier this month, which will make it a challenge to fund many of the other initiatives in the SAFRA bill that passed the House in September.