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  • Writer's pictureRebecca Natow

Federal Higher Education Policy in the News

There are two major federal higher education policy issues in today's news.

First, the Department of Education announced Friday night that it will continue the pause on collecting federal student loan payments until February 1, 2021. Inside Higher Education reports that "the timing is such that it could leave a mess for President-elect Joe Biden when he takes office Jan. 20, less than two weeks before borrowers would have to start making payments again."

Second, Inside Higher Education reports that Congress is close to a deal that would enable the passage of a policy simplifying the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). From Inside Higher Education: "Congressional education leaders are hopeful about reaching a deal in the coming days to simplify applying for student aid, a major priority for Lamar Alexander, the chairman of the Senate education committee, who is retiring shortly after the new year."

My research on federal higher education policymaking found that congressional leadership is quite influential over the types of higher education policies that pass Congress, and that imminent retirements can play a role in how willing members are to agree to a policy that the retiring leader has prioritized. Because FAFSA simplification has been a long-time priority of Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN), and because the policy has tended to receive bipartisan support, it's likely that Congress will get this done before the next Congress is sworn in.

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