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Senator Lamar Alexander of Tennessee was formally elected Wednesday morning to his post as chair of the Senate education committee in the new Congress.

And he quickly made clear what his top higher education priority would be for the coming year: student aid simplification.

Alexander, a Republican, introduced legislation Wednesday that would significantly reduce the length of the application for federal student aid and consolidate federal grant and loan programs.  His plan, which he first rolled out last year, also calls for restoring year-round Pell Grants.

He also backed a separate proposal unveiled Wednesday by Senator Angus King, an independent, and Senator Richard Burr, a Republican, that would streamline federal student loan repayment plans. It also adopts limits on the amount of loan forgiveness that high-debt borrowers can receive, a provision that the Obama administration has previously proposed.

Alexander said that the Senate education committee would act on the aid simplification bills this year as soon as it finishes work reauthorizing the main federal law governing elementary and secondary education. He said he hoped to bring the aid bill to the Senate floor by the end of this spring.