Penn Hill Group’s Washington Wrap Up: July 29

Here’s a quick look at the news from last week (July 22-26) in Washington.  

On Wednesday, the House Committee on Education and the Workforce marked up H.R. 2637, the Supporting Academic Freedom through Regulatory Relief Act. The bill passed the committee by a final vote of 22-13, with all Republicans and Rep. Andrews (D-NJ) voting yes. The bill repeals higher education regulations related to gainful employment, state authorization, and credit hours, and delays the ability of the Secretary of Education to regulate on gainful employment and state authorization until the reauthorization of the Higher Education Act. In addition, the bill includes a permanent ban on the Department of Education regulating on the definition of credit hour. Lastly, it permits nonprofit institutions of higher education to contract with certain third party service providers for administrative services.

The Senate passed a bipartisan agreement to lower interest rates on student loans on Wednesday, by a vote of 81-18. The agreement sets interest rates based on the 10-year Treasury bill plus an add-on and a cap on rates, depending on the type of loan. For undergraduate loans, the add-on would be 2.05% and the cap would be 8.25%.  For graduate loans, the add-on would be 3.6% and the cap would be 9.5%.  For PLUS loans, the add-on would be 4.6% and the cap would be 10.5%. The House is expected to take up the Senate-passed legislation next week.

The Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions has scheduled a markup on its Workforce Investment Act reauthorization legislation for Wednesday, July 31 at 10:00 am.

The Federal Communications Commission issued a notice of proposed rulemaking on plans to modernize the E-Rate program for broadband in schools and libraries. Initial comments are due on the NPRM by September 16, 2013, with the ability to reply to posted comments or expand and clarify your own comments by October 16.

During a speech on the economy on Wednesday, President Obama announced the Administration’s intention to apply additional focus to gaining approval for his state-based early education and E-Rate proposals.  In addition, President Obama signaled the Administration’s commitment to a number of previously proposed higher education proposals and possibly new proposals focused on college cost.

The House Appropriations Subcommittee was scheduled to mark up a FY14 Labor, HHS, Education appropriations bill on Thursday, but they postponed the markup and have not announced plans to reschedule.