Dismantling of Consumer Protections, Gains in the California Budget, TICAS Thanks Lauren Asher

​Trump Administration Acts to Dismantle Key Student and Taxpayer Protections
Federal Budget Update: FY17 Budget Agreement Sends Mixed Message for Pell Grants while the President’s Proposed Budget for FY18 Slashes Student Aid
Financial Aid Gains in the 2017-18 California State Budget Agreement
July 1 Brings Higher Interest Rates on New Federal Student Loans
Great News! The IRS Data Retrieval Tool is Back Up for Student Loan Borrowers
TICAS is Hiring a California Research/Policy Analyst (Oakland, CA)
Thank You to Lauren Asher


Trump Administration Acts to Dismantle Key Student and Taxpayer Protections

Last month, the U.S. Department of Education took multiple steps to delay and dismantle the gainful employment and the borrower defense and college accountability regulations, common-sense rules designed to protect both students and taxpayers from waste, fraud, and abuse. TICAS and many others have decried the Department’s actions (see here and here). The Department’s legally questionable partial delay of the borrower defense and college accountability regulations is already being challenged in court. In just the last week, the Department announced further delays and changes to the gainful employment rule, using a narrow court ruling as a pretext to gut the entire regulation.

The Department is holding hearings and taking public comments until July 12 on its plans to conduct negotiated rulemaking on both regulations. TICAs will be testifying and submitting comments opposing the delay, dismantling, or weakening of these safeguards and urging the Department to promptly implement them. You too can submit comments to the Department here.

Federal Budget Update: FY17 Budget Agreement Sends Mixed Message for Pell Grants while the President’s Proposed Budget for FY18 Slashes Student Aid

The agreement reached by Congress in May to fund the government through September sends a mixed message about the importance of college affordability. It restored year-round access to Pell Grants but cut the funding available for Pell Grants after this year. Year-round access to Pell Grants is now in effect and will help some students graduate more quickly. The agreement also preserved an already scheduled $105 inflation-based increase in the maximum Pell Grant (to $5,920 for the 2017-18 school year). However, at the same time, the agreement raided $1.3 billion from Pell Grant funding in spite of the urgent need to contain rising student debt and help more people get the education they need to succeed in today’s economy.

Read our statement on the FY17 funding agreement

Later in May, the Trump Administration introduced its fiscal year 2018 budget for higher education, which is a recipe for higher student debt, greater inequality, and a weaker economy. President Trump has said that student debt should not be an ‘albatross’ around students’ necks, yet he proposed $150 billion in cuts to grant aid, work study, and student loans in this budget, cuts that would force millions of students to take on even more debt and make it harder for many to repay.

The Administration’s budget undermines Pell Grants, raiding $3.9 billion from the program’s reserve (on top of the $1.3 billion raided for FY17), and fails to adjust Pell awards for inflation for the first time in six years. As a result, the value of the Pell Grant would decline in school year 2018-19, both in real terms and as a share of college costs. To make matters worse, the budget proposed increasing the cost of borrowing for millions of students through changes to income-driven repayment and the elimination of subsidized student loans and Public Service Loan Forgiveness. TICAS is working with other advocates to ensure that Congress rejects these harmful proposals as they work toward constructing a spending plan for FY18.

Read our statement on the President’s FY18 budget proposal

Financial Aid Gains in the 2017-18 California State Budget Agreement

After a budget season with unprecedented focus on financial aid, last week California Governor Jerry Brown signed the 2017-18 California State budget agreement that includes welcome and long-overdue increases to financial aid for full-time community college students. The changes will help cover total college costs that can exceed $20,000 a year for California community college students.

Due to an increase to the Full-Time Student Success Grant (FTSSG), Cal Grant recipients taking 12 or more credits per term will see an increase of up to $400 per year (for a maximum award size of $1,000). And the creation of a new financial aid program, the Community College Completion Grant, will provide up to $2,000 more per year to eligible students who take additional credits (at least 30 in total per year) during the fall, spring, and/or summer terms. While both of these programs are only available to students who receive Cal Grant awards, and hundreds of thousands of community college students who are eligible for Cal Grants are turned away each year due to insufficient funding, these increases add up to substantial new aid availability for those who can access it.

Read our blog on the 2017-18 California budget

July 1 Brings Higher Interest Rates on New Federal Student Loans

July 1 is an important date for students and families: it’s when most changes to federal student aid – both loans and grants – go into effect. For the year starting July 1, 2017, new federal loans for undergraduates, graduate students, and parents will have higher fixed interest rates than loans taken out the year before. To help inform college borrowing decisions, we have a new, easy-to-read chart with 2017-18 interest rates, loan amounts, and other useful information for the most common types of federal loans. 

Read the fact sheet

Great News! The IRS Data Retrieval Tool is Back Up for Student Loan Borrowers

Taken down due to security concerns in March, millions of student loan borrowers can once again use the IRS Data Retrieval Tool (DRT) to electronically transfer their tax information into the online application for income-driven repayment (IDR) plans. Using the DRT, borrowers can apply for IDR and update their income online at StudentLoans.gov, without needing to separately provide their tax returns.

TICAS and other student advocates worked hard to ensure that the DRT would be restored as soon as possible for borrowers using it for income-driven repayment, in addition to those completing the FAFSA. We thank the Department of Education and IRS for being responsive and working together to restore secure access to this critical tool, and for doing so without creating burdensome new requirements that would make it difficult for low-income students to use the DRT. We look forward to restoration of the DRT by October 1 for students completing the FAFSA to qualify for financial aid in the 2018-19 year.

TICAS is Hiring a California Research/Policy Analyst (Oakland, CA)

We're seeking a talented analyst to join our California team. This position analyzes California state policy issues related to financial aid, college affordability, and student success. We are looking for a team player with experience in data and policy analysis, strong communication skills, and exceptional attention to detail. The analyst reports to TICAS’ Vice President. Oakland-based candidates are preferred, though candidates in Sacramento will also be considered.

See the full job posting here

Thank You to Lauren Asher

At the end of June, TICAS president Lauren Asher transitioned out of her position after more than a decade at TICAS. Under her strong and steady leadership, TICAS has had an outsized impact on issues of student debt, low-income students' access to aid, borrower protections, and college accountability. It is impossible to overstate her contribution to our organization, our community, and our nation's students and borrowers. We will miss her terribly, and we wish her the very best in her next endeavor.

TICAS board chair Richard Kazis has been named interim president, effective June 28, as our organization conducts a national executive search in partnership with Isaacson, Miller. TICAS' leadership may be changing, but its mission remains the same, and our staff will continue our vitally important work for students and borrowers during this transition period.

Read the press release and view the position profile