Monday, October 23, 2006
To the U.S. Department of Education--"We're drowning in debt."
Secretary Spellings has sent out staff across the country to discuss proposed rulemaking for the amended Higher Education Act. Unsurprisingly, this has attracted a LOT of attention from educators and loan-holding students. Articles about the Berkeley and Chicago hearings cover some of the highlights.

However, the official Department of Education page includes the most information. I found the PDF of the Berkeley transcript particularly enlightening.

Some of the most requested policy changes seem to be:

  • Clarify and expand articulation agreements. If students attend career-focused or community colleges to save money, their transcripts should not be rejected out of hand by four-year colleges. At the very least, all schools should be required to make their articulation agreements and transfer credit standards publicly available.
  • Simplify the aid form process. The ability to navigate bureaucracy is still economically privileged, and for lower-income students, most of the necessary information could probably fit on a postcard. It was also suggested that students and parents be able to request that financial aid offices receive tax records at the time they file their returns with the IRS. (I'm not sure how I feel about that from a privacy perspective, but it would certainly make things simpler.)
  • Relax the restrictions on Income Contingent Repayment, and end the term at 20 years. Students who go into fields like social work and education make the argument that their service is more valuable than salaries reflect, and that if they pay X percent of their income for 20 years, they should be forgiven the remaining balance.

Obviously, most of these proposals would be costly, and would have to be justified in the budget process. But I think many of them would go a long way towards making education more attainable for everyone.

There are also upcoming hearings in Orlando and DC for anyone who is interested. Again, the Dept. of Ed. page has the details.



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