By Justine Lopez
WASHINGTON — The Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee plans to consider legislation that would reform the Higher Education Act.
“ ‘Yes’ is the answer to the question, ‘can we make college more affordable?’,” Chairman Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) said at a policy discussion forum Monday at the American Enterprise Institute, a conservative think tank in Washington.
Alexander outlined three new proposals on the committee’s agenda that would make higher education more accessible. His three key points for reform would revise the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), scrap the old student loan borrowing system and introduce student loan repayment accountability.
According to Alexander, the current FAFSA application contains over 100 questions. He described the FAFSA as “cumbersome” and “intimidating” for American families. Alexander said the legislation would slash the number of questions the FAFSA asks to a mere 15-20 questions.
The second proposal would revise the way student loans are repaid, limiting borrowers’ repayments to no more than 10 percent of their discretionary income.
“It should end the nightmare that many students have worrying about how to pay off student loans,” Alexander said.
The committee’s third proposal, to introduce a student loan repayment accountability program, would not only simplify and expand the Gainful Employment Rule, but also provide incentives to colleges to lower tuition.
The Obama-era Gainful Employment Rule requires that college training programs better prepare students for future employment in their field after graduation. The rule, however, has recently come under push-back by Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos.
Alexander said the committee hopes to move forward with the legislation and have it implemented as early as the fall.
Alexander served as secretary of Education for the last two years of the administration of late President George H.W. Bush.
Alexander is considered one of the most bipartisan members of the Senate. In addition to his work on education reform, he has authored legislation to treat opioid addiction and lower health-care costs.
Alexander, 78, announced last December that he will not seek re-election to the Senate.