H.R. 3179, Empowering Students Through Enhanced Financial Counseling Act

H.R. 3179

Empowering Students Through Enhanced Financial Counseling Act

Date
July 11, 2016 (114th Congress, 2nd Session)

Staff Contact
Molly Newell

Floor Situation

On Monday, July 11, 2016, the House will consider H.R. 3179, the Empowering Students Through Enhanced Financial Counseling Act, under suspension of the rules. H.R. 3179 was introduced on July 23, 2015, by Rep. Brett Guthrie (R-KY), and was referred to the Committee on Education and the Workforce, which ordered the bill reported, as amended, by voice vote on June 22, 2016.

Bill Summary

H.R. 3179 would amend the loan counseling requirements under the Higher Education Act of 1965 to promote greater financial literacy by:

  • Ensuring borrowers who participate in the federal loan program receive interactive counseling each year that reflects their individual borrowing situation before they accept their loan;
  • Providing awareness about the financial obligations students and parents are accumulating by requiring borrowers to consent each year before receiving federal student loans;
  • Informing low-income students about the terms and conditions of the Pell Grant program through annual counseling that will be provided to all grant recipients, and;
  • Directing the Secretary of Education to maintain and disseminate a consumer-tested, online counseling tool that institutions can use to provide annual loan counseling, exit counseling, and annual Pell Grant counseling.[1]

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[1] See Empowering Students Through Enhanced Financial Counseling Fact Sheet.

Background

Currently, individuals receiving federal student loans must complete a one-time entrance counseling session regarding their loans’ terms and conditions. But this counseling occurs once students have already signed up to take out loans. Additionally, this counseling is not required for parent borrowers or students who only receive Pell Grants, potentially leaving them unaware of the terms and conditions associated with their respective loans or grants.

Before completing their course of study, students who receive federal student loans must also complete exit counseling which includes information on available repayment plans, debt management strategies, and loan forgiveness options. However, this information is very general, rather than being geared toward a student’s specific situation.

According to the bill’s sponsor, “Students need timely and comprehensive information on facts and existing options surrounding financing their college education in order to make wise and informed decisions. Current policies do not provide students with the tools they need to have a clear understanding of their financial obligations. My bill will improve the quality of counseling for student borrowers so that they have the ability to choose the best-suited financing option for them.”[1]

Substantively similar legislation, H.R. 4984, passed the House in the 113th Congress (405-11).

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[1] See Rep. Guthrie’s Press Release, “Committee Passes Congressman Guthrie’s Financial Literacy Bill,” June 22, 2016.

Cost

The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimates that implementing H.R. 4984 would cost $2 million for the department’s administrative expenses over the 2017-2021 period; such spending would be subject to the availability of appropriated funds. Enacting the bill would not affect direct spending or revenues; therefore, pay-as-you-go procedures do not apply. Additionally, CBO estimates that enacting H.R. 3179 would not increase net direct spending or on-budget deficits in any of the four consecutive 10-year periods beginning in 2027.

Additional Information

For questions or further information please contact Molly Newell with the House Republican Policy Committee by email or at 2-1374.