Penn Hill Group’s Washington Wrap-Up: May 13

Here’s a quick look at the news from last week (May 6 – May 10) in Washington.


On Thursday, the Senate Judiciary Committee began to mark up the immigration bill released by the Gang of 8. The bill includes several education-related provisions such as the DREAM Act, STEM education funding, English language skills and education visa requirements. The Committee posted a list of amendments that were considered on May 9, and a full list of amendments. The mark up is expected to continue for several weeks.

The Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee delayed the vote on the nomination of Secretary of Labor-Designate Thomas E. Perez for the second time. The vote was scheduled for this past Thursday, but was postponed to Thursday, May 16 at 9:15 a.m.

Several Congressmen introduced bills this week that address the scheduled doubling of the student loan interest rate on July 1:

  • Chairman Kline (R-MN) and Rep. Foxx (R-NC) introduced a student loan interest rate bill on Thursday. H.R. 1911, The Smarter Solutions for Students Act, would establish a variable rate structure for Stafford and Parent PLUS student loans (with such rate resetting once each year for new loans and loans made after July 1 of this year) based on the 10-year Treasury Note plus 2.5% for Stafford Loans and 4.5% for Parent PLUS Loans.  The interest rate would be capped at 8.5% for Stafford Loans and 10.5% for PLUS Loans. The bill is reported to save $3.7 billion over 10 years.
  • Rep. Tierney (D-MA) and Rep. Courtney (D-CT) introduced a bill, the Responsible Student Loan Solutions Act of 2013.  A similar bill was also introduced in the Senate by Senator Reed (D-RI) and Durbin (D-IL).  These bills would also establish a variable interest rate structure for Stafford and Parent PLUS loans, with the student interest rate being set once a year and remaining fixed for the life of a borrower’s loan.  The variable rate structure would be based on the 91-day Treasury Note plus an add-on determined by the U.S. Department of Education based on the cost of operating the student loan programs.  In addition, this legislation would increase loan limits for subsidized Stafford Loans and allow individuals with existing high rate Federal student loans to “refinance” their loans under the new variable rate structure.

The House Education and Workforce Committee held a full committee hearing  titled “Raising the Bar: Exploring State and Local Efforts to Improve Accountability” on May 7. Witnesses included the Louisiana State Superintendent of Schools, a district superintendent from MN, the CEO of the Cleveland Metropolitan School District, and the Chief Development Officer of EdisonLearning. Education Week reported that during the hearing, Chairman Kline stated that the committee will act on reauthorizing the Elementary and Secondary Education Act “in the coming months.”

It was publicly reported that Jane Oates, the Assistant Secretary for Employment and Training at the U.S. Department of Labor, intends to leave her post effective June 1.

The U.S. Department of Education announced that Alejandra Ceja has been appointed Director of the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for Hispanics.

Penn Hill Group provides a weekly list of grant opportunities, and summaries for select grants. Please visit our website for more information.