Federal Relations

Rep. Ryan Anti-Poverty Plan and Higher Education

On Thursday, House Budget Committee Chairman Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) announced what he is calling  a new anti-poverty plan that proposes sweeping changes to the safety net through a state-led pilot program. Announced at the the conservative American Enterprise Institute, Ryan’s plan calls for streamlining the student-aid system, capping federal loans to parents and graduate students, a database for tracking recipients of federal aid, and further consolidation of federal job-training programs.

Big focus points that impact higher education include:

  • Simplify the Free Application for Federal Student Aid.
  • Modernize and reform the Pell program.
  •  Cap federal loans to graduate students and parents.
  • Consider reforms to the TRIO programs.
  • Expand funding for federal Work-Study programs.
  • Build stronger partnerships with post-secondary institutions.
  • Reform the accreditation process.

Some of the proposals in Thursday’s plan mirror ideas in the House Republican road map for reauthorization, including replacing the current patchwork of federal student-aid programs with one grant, one loan, and one work-study program. Both plans would make Pell Grants available year-round, creating “flex” funds that students could draw from until they graduated or exhausted their eligibility for aid. Also, both would remake federal college-access programs, with Mr. Ryan’s plan suggesting a single program.

But the Ryan plan offers more specifics than does the House Republican list, particularly when it comes to accreditation. His plan would make it easier for new accreditors to gain federal approval and would allow accreditors to recognize specific courses, not just colleges or programs.

The plan also calls for the creation of a “Commission on Evidence-Based Policy Making” that would explore whether, and how, to create a federal clearinghouse that could link anonymous participants across programs to provide a more complete picture of their effectiveness. The clearinghouse might also contain state, local, and educational data sets, like National Student Clearinghouse.

As this proposal and others continue to be introduced and move through Congress, the Office of Federal Relations will continue to monitor and update this issue.