Earlier this month, NASPA Policy Analyst Diana Ali summarized What You Need to Know About Borrower Defense to Repayment following the release of a final proposed rule by the Department of Education (ED) for public comment in a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM). Since then, Diana has been busy reviewing the NPRM and drafting comments in response to the proposed rule, which NASPA is now circulating for sign-on among our colleagues in other student affairs-related associations. As Diana noted, any member of the public can submit comments in response to an NPRM. Because we know that it can be difficult to know how to start, however, we wanted to provide student affairs professionals a guide and template they can work from to submit comments on the borrower defense to repayment (BDR) proposed rule published on July 31, 2018 by the Office of Postsecondary Education, Department of Education, 83 Fed. Reg. 37242. Please note that the deadline to submit comments is Thursday, August 30, 2018.
A crucial part of ensuring student success and providing an inclusive environment lies in offering fair and equitable financial assistance options along with protections for student loan borrowers. Students who complete their credentials have been found to be more likely to repay their student loans. NASPA is concerned with the implications in the Department’s NPRM that would require students who have been misled by an institution as to their possible outcomes to choose either between continuing their studies, rather than having to restart them, or repaying debt that they may not have incurred without the misrepresentation of their first institution. We feel that students who have been misled by an institution should be entitled both to relief of the debt they incurred unnecessarily and to options to salvage what they can from their time to build from at another institution.
While there are aspects of the proposed rule we find appropriate, such as the updating of financial accounting standards and calculations of the financial ratios (83 FR 37270-37285) and the extension of the window to qualify for a closed school discharge from 120 days to 180 days (83 FR 27268), NASPA finds that the Department’s NPRM would, if implemented as proposed, reduce the amount of and increase eligibility criteria for relief available for defrauded borrowers. Specifically, NASPA makes the following comments with respect to the BDR NPRM:
In order to aid those who may wish to comment on the points NASPA will be making in our comments, we have created a template document that can be downloaded and edited by either individuals or institutions. The template is just that – sample language and a format for framing comments that can be edited or customized as desired to fit the points you or your institution feel are most important to emphasize in providing feedback to ED regarding their proposed BDR rule. You should feel free to delete sections or text you don’t wish to provide comments on and to add information from your own professional experience or institutional data. Providing comments from a variety of student and institutional perspectives is the best way to help the Department create a final rule that will work across the spectrum of higher education.
We encourage individuals to work with their campus leadership and government affairs to submit comments on behalf of their institution where appropriate. Language from the NASPA provided template can be copied and used freely in comments your institution may be preparing. If your institution decides not to submit comments, you are still welcome to submit comments on your own. Please keep in mind that you should be sure to speak from your personal professional experience and not leave the impression that you are speaking on behalf of your institution if you have not coordinated with your institutional leadership to do so. You may want to revisit our tips on drafting effective comments as well as suggestions for engaging in public policy as a private citizen. Comments must be submitted via regulations.gov by Thursday, August 30, 2018.