The Senate education committee is working on the reauthorization of the Higher Education Act. This bill will dictate the future of college financial aid, federal student loan programs that millions of Americans depend on, and much more. Chairman Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) and Ranking Member Patty Murray (D-Wash.) sought comments for the Committee’s consideration. 

Here is the statement submitted by Student Debt Crisis:


The Honorable Lamar Alexander
Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions
U.S. Senate Washington, DC 20510

The Honorable Patty Murray
Ranking Member
Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions
U.S. Senate Washington, DC 20510

Dear Chairman Alexander and Ranking Member Murray:

We are writing to you to address what needs to be in a student- and borrower-focused HEA reauthorization. We are concerned with the following:

A high-quality higher education is a public good that Americans should be able to access without the burden of debt or financial hardship. Addressing equity in higher education and taking meaningful action on the student debt crisis is a defining civil rights issue of our time. The Higher Education Act reauthorization must do three things to take meaningful action on behalf of borrowers, students, veterans, and consumers:

  1. Meaningfully address current student loan debt;
  2. Address quality and affordability to ensure meaningful access; and
  3. Rein in companies that are inappropriately profiting off our debt-financed higher education system.

In working with Higher Ed, Not Debt, our coalition of student, labor, veteran, and consumer groups has come together to offer an alternative framework to guide conversations around a reauthorization that will truly improve the state of our higher education system and begin to reverse the student debt crisis.

Tackling Current Student Loan Debt: With Americans today holding more than $1.4 trillion in student loan debt and cumulative totals of student loan debt now exceeding more than all credit card and auto debt combined, any HEA reauthorization must include significant provisions to address the crushing debt held by current borrowers. Legislators must also use this reauthorization as an opportunity to enshrine the consumer rights of borrowers into law. Student loan borrowers should have access to the protections that come with other types of consumer debt.

Addressing Quality & Affordability to Ensure Meaningful Access: An HEA reauthorization must respond to the causes of declining affordability and serious concerns in quality in a way that ensures and increases meaningful access to a variety of postsecondary opportunities for low-income students and students of color. Congress should use this HEA reauthorization to explore bold and forward-looking proposals that will improve college affordability and access, particularly by closing equity gaps in enrollment and completion, and making higher education free or debt-free for all Americans. Additionally, the HEA reauthorization must ensure that state governments keep their end of the bargain by reinvesting in state higher education institutions. The HEA should incentivize states to return state support to inflation-adjusted pre-recession levels.

Congress’ commitment to building a high quality higher education system also includes the responsibility to ensure all students are provided with a safe campus environment. Any HEA proposal that undermines the rights of survivors, LGBTQ students, students of color, and students with disabilities should not be negotiated on.

Reining in the Profiteers: Congress must ensure that no company or entity is making money off of the backs of students looking to get a shot at a higher education without providing a high-quality educational experience or service.  Predatory for-profit colleges, student loan servicers, collectors and “debt relief” companies must operate within an accountability system that does not allow them to exploit students and bilk taxpayers all while lining their executive’s pockets with federal financial aid dollars. Ensuring sufficient oversight and enforcement of the law for companies unduly profiting off students and borrowers must be a core tenet of any HEA reauthorization.

Thank you again for providing us with the opportunity to submit feedback.

For more information, please contact Natalia Abrams, Executive Director at or (646) 820-8037

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