Westerman Votes for Empowering Students through Enhanced Financial Counseling Act
WASHINGTON – Congressman Bruce Westerman issued the following statement Thursday (September 6) expressing support for H.R. 1635, the Empowering Students through Enhanced Financial Counseling Act. The bill, introduced by Rep. Brett Guthrie (R-Kentucky) passed the House Wednesday (September 5) by a vote of 406-4.
“Student loan debt has ballooned in recent years as the cost of education has increased,” Westerman said. “For many, student loans are the only way to fill the funding gap to pay for higher education. But the process of applying for and issuing student loans has proven inadequate in educating students on the true costs they incur. The Enhanced Financial Counseling Act puts our students first, enhancing financial aid counseling procedures and ensuring students have the information necessary to make responsible decisions about paying for education. These are choices that will affect the rest of their lives and students are entitled to the right tools as they navigate options. I was proud to support this bill.”
According to the House Committee on Education and the Workforce, the bill:
- Ensures borrowers, both students and parents, have the most up-to-date information by requiring financial counseling before an individual signs on the dotted line;
- Requires annual counseling to include recommendations for students to exhaust available grant, work-study, and scholarship assistance before taking out loans, as well as review all federal student loan options before considering a private loan;
- Requires notice that students and parents are not required to accept the full amount of the loan they are offered and information on any outstanding federal loan balance the borrower may have;
- Would bolster exit counseling, including the borrower’s outstanding loan balance, anticipated monthly payments under various repayment plans, information on the grace period preceding repayment, as well as contact information for those organizations servicing the borrower’s loans;
- Would require all recipients of a Pell Grant to undergo annual counseling, including the terms and conditions of their grant, the approved educational expenses the grant can be applied to, the maximum length of time a student is eligible to receive Pell Grants, the level of assistance a student is eligible to receive, why a student may need to repay a Pell Grant, and how a student may seek additional assistance due to a change in his or her financial circumstances; and
- Requires the Secretary of Education to maintain a consumer-tested, online counseling tool that institutions can use to provide required counseling to their students. Institutions will have the following options available to provide students financial counseling: directly during an in-person session; an online tool created for the institution; and the online tool administered by the Department of Education.