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Plan Would Impose Fee on Future GI Bill Benefits

A plan set to be considered by the House Veterans Affairs Committee next week would require service members to pay into the GI Bill to receive future benefits, according to multiple reports this week. The proposal has split veterans' organizations who advocate with members of Congress.

The proposal is part of draft legislation in the works from the office of committee chairman Phil Roe, a Tennessee Republican, and would deduct $100 from new enlistees' pay each month for two years to receive education benefits. Tiffany Haverly, a spokeswoman for Roe, said committee staff have worked with veterans' service organizations for several months to address long-sought improvements to those education benefits. The committee will discuss several of those proposals at a hearing next week, she said. Others will include giving veterans more flexibility to use GI Bill benefits at the institution of their choice and increasing educational benefits for survivors and dependents.

"The chairman is dedicated to debating these proposed reforms through an open, transparent and inclusive process," Haverly said. "The feedback received from witnesses and the will of committee members will decide whether all, some or none of the proposals under consideration advance through the committee."

The Veterans of Foreign Wars said the buy-in proposal amounts to a tax on service members for benefits they are already due.

"Ensuring veterans are able to successfully transition back to civilian life after military service is a cost of war and not a fee that Congress can just pass along to our troops," said VFW National Commander Brian Duffy in a statement.

But Student Veterans of America, which represents 500,000 student veterans, said Congress already requires service members to buy into GI Bill benefits and that the proposal could help ensure that those benefits would be available later.

"Don't be fooled by the rhetoric of a few; we've heard this before, where other groups try to create a false sense of outrage," said Will Hubbard, vice president of government affairs at SVA. "We seek and continue to push for a consolidated, streamlined GI Bill that will persevere beyond individual generations."

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Hatch: Endowments Will Be Part of Tax Review

Utah Senator Orrin Hatch, the Republican chairman of the Senate Finance committee, said this week that university endowments would be part of a planned review of the tax code.

The tax-exempt status of mega endowments at elite colleges has come under repeated congressional scrutiny since 2015, and Republicans have proposed legislation to force institutions with large endowments to provide more tuition relief to students. In apparent preparation for a renewed push on endowments, several colleges and universities have added endowment issues to their federal agendas in lobbying disclosure forms.

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Department of Education makes first official senior hires

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Education Secretary Betsy DeVos makes first official announcement of key aides, many of them in acting capacities and including some controversial choices.

TICAS President to Step Down

Lauren Asher, president of the Institute for College Access and Success, said Tuesday she will step down as head of the organization after June.

Asher has spent 12 years at the nonprofit organization, serving as president since 2009, when the TICAS board named her to replace Bob Shireman.

She said the group had grown "from a scrappy start-up to a central voice" on issues such as student loan and financial aid policy and access to college.

"I’m so proud of what we’ve accomplished together and the organization TICAS has become," she said in a message announcing her departure. "And our student-centered, data-driven and outcomes-oriented approach to financial aid policy and practice is needed now more than ever. I know TICAS will continue to have a major impact: fighting to make education and training more affordable and successful, not less, and standing up for the most economically vulnerable students and borrowers."

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Students tend to overspend on college, report finds, often by choice

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Most students pay more for college than an affordability benchmark recommends, according to a new report, and some of the overspending is by choice.

DeVos withdraws consumer protections from servicing contract process

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New federal memorandum rescinds previous guidance governing selection of loan servicers, removing some consumer protections.

New College Affordability Website

The Urban Institute has created a new website that attempts to inform students and their families about college affordability. Sandy Baum, a senior fellow at the institute, and other researchers designed the site to better define what affordability actually means. With funding from the Lumina Foundation, the site seeks to map out the full life cycle of student finance, from defining "what is college" to loan repayment after college. It also includes sections on financial aid, covering expenses and student demographics and income levels.

"There is not a yes or no answer to the question of whether college is affordable," the site says. "But the information on this website can increase understanding of how much students in different circumstances pay for different kinds of education and of the resources they can draw on to cover their expenses."

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DeVos to Meet With Higher Ed Groups Wednesday

Education Secretary Betsy DeVos will meet Wednesday with the presidents of four higher ed associations, according to her public schedule. Only one, Molly Corbett Broad of the American Council on Education, represents both public and private institutions.

The others are Shirley Hoogstra, president of the Council for Christian Colleges & Universities; David Warren, president of the National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities; and Michael Galligan-Stierle, president of the Association of Catholic Colleges and Universities.

DeVos in February met with Peter McPherson, president of the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities, along with 11 presidents of four-year, public universities. She also met with leaders of historically black colleges and universities that month.

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Study Examines Loan Aversion by Population

A new study out of Vanderbilt University seeks to quantify loan aversion among different populations.

The study, “Understanding Loan Aversion in Education: Evidence From High School Seniors, Community College Students and Adults,” is based on survey data from 6,000 people.

Among high school seniors, students at community college and adults without a college degree, the majority of each group believe it’s a good idea to save up enough money before making a purchase (as opposed to borrowing money to buy). More specifically, 21 percent of high school students and 20 percent of non-college-educated adults did not think it was acceptable to borrow money for education, while only 9 percent of community college students felt that way. Over half of the community college students surveyed had borrowed money to attend their current school.

The authors -- Angela Boatman, Brent J. Evans and Adela Saliz, all three of whom are assistant professors of public policy and higher education at Vanderbilt -- also found that women are less loan averse than men and that Hispanic students tend to be more loan averse than white students.

 

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Senators Want Pell Eligibility for Dual Enrollment

A bipartisan proposal in the U.S. Senate would open up Pell Grants to low-income students who earn college credits while still enrolled in high school.

The bill introduced last week by Senator Rob Portman, an Ohio Republican, and Senator Mark Warner, a Virginia Democrat, would allow Pell Grant funding for transferable college credits, including general-education requirements, that students complete in an early-college program offered by an accredited institution. The proposed legislation comes as Republicans increasingly have voiced support for dual-enrollment and early-college programs.

“While wages have been largely flat over the past 10 years, the average cost of college tuition and fees at national universities has more than doubled,” Portman said in a written statement. “A lot of families are feeling squeezed, and for kids from low-income households, college can feel out of reach. Our legislation would let them get a head start on college, make it more affordable for them and help them get on track to live out their dreams.”

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