Penn Hill Group’s Washington Wrap Up – December 4, 2017

A quick look back at the news from last week. Compiled by Penn Hill Group. 


House Education and the Workforce Committee Republican Members released their Higher Education Act (HEA) reauthorization bill, the PROSPER Act, as well as a summary and fact sheet on the bill.


The Senate Budget Committee reported out the Senate Finance Committee’s tax bill.

The Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee (HELP) held a hearing to consider the nomination of Alex Azar to serve as Secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Committee Republicans and Democrats released statements on their priorities.

The Senate HELP Committee held a hearing to examine proposals to simplify the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), during which Chairman Lamar Alexander (R-TN) announced that he has been working on new legislation to simplify the form down to 15-25 questions and discussed the idea of creating a separate application for Pell Grant awards.

HELP Committee Ranking Member Patty Murray (D-WA) released a statement opposing the House Education and the Workforce Committee Republicans’ HEA reauthorization bill.


ED’s Office of Federal Student Aid (FSA) Chief Operating Officer (COO) Dr. A Wayne Johnson announced a Next Generation Financial Services Environment blueprint for his organization, which aims to modernize the FSA support of Federal student aid programs. The blueprint also calls for consolidating different ED-operated student aid websites, piloting the ability of students to access Pell and loan funds above tuition and fees through an ED-provided financial structure (as opposed to existing debit card arrangements with colleges and universities) and improving Federal student loan servicing.

ED unveiled a new mobile FAFSA application that would be available in the spring.

ED Secretary Betsy DeVos delivered remarks on ED’s direction and views on higher education policy, during which she called for a reauthorization of the HEA and stressed the importance of simplifying the administrative requirements and regulations pertaining to student aid programs.

News outlets have reported that ED is considering removing the word “systemic” from guidelines on how to probe civil rights violations, effectively limiting the scope of investigations at schools.

Richard Cordray resigned as the Director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) and appointed his Deputy Leandra English as Acting Director. President Trump subsequently appointed Office of Management and Budget (OMB) Director Mick Mulvaney as Acting CFPB Director. English filed a lawsuit in Federal court in response to the Trump Administration’s appointment. The court ruled in favor of the Trump Administration’s appointment.

President Trump announced his intent to nominate Mark Schneider as Director of the Institute of Education Sciences in ED. Currently, Dr. Schneider is a vice president and an Institute Fellow at the American Institutes for Research and President of College Measures.

ED approved Michigan’s State plan under ESSA.

Negotiators charged with rewriting the Gainful Employment regulations have their first meeting today.


Penn Hill Group plans to provide clients with a summary of the following event this week:

  • December 5: Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee Hearing: “Department of Education and Department of Labor Nominations”
    Witnesses: Kenneth Marcus, Of Washington, D.C., nominated to be Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights, Department of Education; Johnny Collett, Of Georgetown, KY, nominated to be Assistant Secretary for Special Education and Rehabilitative Services, Department of Education