By: Gina Luke, assistant director, Governmental Relations Division
On Nov. 20, retiring Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) introduced a comprehensive higher education reauthorization bill, marking the first official step toward reauthorizing programs that provide a majority of financial assistance to postsecondary students.
The Higher Education Affordability Act (HEAA), which was originally released in draft form in late June, will focus on four major themes and goals: increasing college affordability, helping struggling borrowers, strengthening accountability, and improving transparency.
“College affordability, skyrocketing student debt, accountability, and transparency—these are all very high-stakes issues for students and families,” said Harkin, chairman of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee. “The Higher Education Affordability Act seeks changes to our system of higher education in order to make a college education more affordable and accessible.”
The AVMA recognizes the increasing burden of educational debt on new veterinary graduates and its implications for the veterinary profession and is involved in a myriad of ways to achieve student debt resolution. Those include, but are not limited to:
- seeking beneficial terms and conditions on federal, state and private loans for professional students;
- sustaining federal funding for the Veterinary Medicine Loan Repayment Program;
- continuing the federal Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program;
- seeking federal, state and private support for grant and scholarship programs targeting veterinary medical students;
- expanding incentives using the U.S. Tax Code to support higher education; and
- seeking improvements to debt management counseling offered to veterinary medical students by university student financial aid offices and veterinary medical colleges.
Although the HEAA will not see any movement on the Hill before this Congress adjourns later this month, its fundamental ideas and reforms will serve as an important marker for upcoming reauthorization discussions. The AVMA will be highly engaged on this issue in the coming Congress.
Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), who served as the secretary of education from 1991-93, will be replacing retiring Sen. Harkin as the Senate HELP committee chairman in the 114th Congress.