WASHINGTON, D.C. — The U.S. Department of Education (Department) recently announced it will publish a notice in the Federal Register establishing a negotiated rulemaking committee that will meet virtually beginning in October to rewrite regulations for Public Service Loan forgiveness, income-contingent repayment plans, and borrower defense to repayment, among other issues. These regulations will help borrowers manage repayment or receive a discharge or forgiveness of their federal student loans. The committee will also establish regulations to implement Pell Grant eligibility for incarcerated individuals, which will be discussed in a subcommittee. In the notice, the Department requests nominations for negotiators and subcommittee members and set dates for negotiation sessions.
“This rulemaking committee will do the important work of improving borrowers’ access to benefits that reduce the burden of federal student loans, including targeted discharges,” said U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona. “We look forward to convening the committee and remain committed to the mission of better serving our nation’s students and borrowers.”
The Department announced the following issues for negotiation:
- Borrower defense to repayment
- Closed school discharges
- False certification discharges
- Income-contingent repayment
- Interest capitalization on federal student loans
- Mandatory pre-dispute arbitration and prohibition of class action lawsuits
- Pell Grant eligibility for prison education programs (in a subcommittee)
- Public Service Loan Forgiveness
- Total and permanent disability discharges
Negotiated rulemaking is a process by which the Department convenes representatives of interested groups to discuss proposed regulations over multiple sessions with the goal of achieving consensus on the language of the proposed regulations. The Department states it is soliciting nominations for primary and alternate negotiators to represent the following 16 constituent groups:
- Dependent students
- Independent students
- Student loan borrowers
- Legal assistance organizations that represent students and/or borrowers
- U.S. military service members, veterans, or groups representing them
- State attorneys general
- State higher education executive officers, state authorizing agencies, and/or state regulators of institutions of higher education and/or loan servicers
- Individuals with disabilities or groups representing them
- Financial aid administrators at postsecondary institutions
- Two-year public institutions of higher education
- Four-year public institutions of higher education
- Private nonprofit institutions of higher education
- Proprietary institutions
- Minority-serving institutions of higher education
- Federal Family Education Loan (FFEL) lenders and/or guaranty agencies
- Accrediting agencies
The Department stated is especially interested in nominations from individuals or organizations that represent the perspective of historically underserved and/or low-income communities.
The Department also announced it is also seeking two advisors to the committee. One to represent employers whose employees are eligible for Public Service Loan Forgiveness, the other an individual with expertise in research and analysis of higher education data. These are non-voting roles designed to provide technical assistance and expertise during the process.
Pell Grant eligibility for prison education programs will also be discussed in a subcommittee that will provide recommendations to the committee. It will include membership from the following groups that could be filled by negotiators from the main committee or additional individuals from the following groups: consumer advocacy organizations; financial aid administrators; formerly incarcerated individuals who participated in a prison education program; groups that represents incarcerated students; postsecondary institutions that are prison education program providers; State correctional education directors; and State higher education executive officers.
To submit nominations for committee, subcommittee, or advisor spots, email [email protected]. The Department states it will accept nominations for 21 days after the notice is published in the Federal Register.
The first negotiating session will run October 4 through 8, with subsequent meetings November 1-5 and December 6-10. The subcommittee will meet in between the full committee meetings. All sessions will be virtual and open to the public.
The Department states it recognizes significant public interest in a range of other regulatory topics, particularly related to accountability and consumer protection. Officials say these may be considered later by a separate rulemaking committee formed through a subsequent announcement.
For more details on the 2021-22 negotiated rulemaking process, visit https://www2.ed.gov/policy/highered/reg/hearulemaking/2021/index.html.
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