Legislative update: Department of Ed unveils Obama college financial aid ‘shopping sheet’

Lori Clark
Lori Clark

In Washington, D.C. …

Officials of the U.S. Department of Education today unveiled the Obama administration’s college financial aid “shopping sheet,” which was developed jointly with the newly created Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

The shopping sheet, while allowing individual institutions to provide customized information, provides a number of common elements regarding a student’s financial aid package, including:

  • estimated total cost of attendance;
  • net costs;
  • options on how to pay for the costs;
  • institutional information, including graduation rate, loan default rate and median loan debt; and,
  • loan repayment method options.

At this point, the use of the shopping sheet is voluntary. However, it is indicative of the growing clamor regarding college costs and transparency issues.

Meanwhile, although there is a lot of noise coming out of Congress, the reality is that there will be little, if any, appropriations or substantive legislation passed before the November general election.

In Springfield …

House Speaker Michael Madigan has called for a special one-day session of the House on Friday, Aug. 17.

At that time, the House will receive and vote on a report from a bipartisan House Select Committee on Discipline, which has recommended the expulsion of Rep. Derrick Smith from the House.

Rep. Smith is under federal indictment for alleged bribe-taking. There is an urgency to deal with this issue because Smith is on the ballot for the November election.

The Illinois Senate is not scheduled to convene before the Fall Veto Session.

'Road to Retirement' highway signGov. Pat Quinn has stated publicly that he wants the General Assembly to convene in August to pass legislation to address the issue of public pension “reforms.” Senate President John Cullerton and Sen. Dan Kotowski have called on Speaker Madigan to bring HB 1447 up for a vote during the Aug. 17 special session.

HB 1447 was passed by the Senate in the late hours of May 31. It makes significant changes to the State Employees and General Assembly retirement systems; the State University Retirement System is not included in this legislation.

Although it is still a possibility, it remains questionable whether the General Assembly will address the issue of changes to the public pension systems before the November elections.

On July 16, Quinn signed HB 5914 into law, now Public Act 97-0814. This legislation restricts the ability of public universities in Illinois from using search firms to fill vacancies.

The new law prohibits public universities from hiring an external search firm, regardless of what funding source would be used, except (1) in the hiring of the president of a university or (2) in the case of when the president of the university and the board of trustees demonstrate a justifiable need for guidance from an individual or firm with specific expertise in the field of hiring.

This law becomes effective Jan. 1, 2013. Public universities must develop and implement a policy, including qualifying criteria, for the use of external search firms within six months (or by June 30, 2013).

Quinn also has signed into law SB 3722, now Public Act 97-0766. One component of the new law extends an early voting on campus pilot program. For the 2012 general election, each appropriate election authority must conduct grace period voter registration and early voting in a high traffic location on the campus of a public university.

For NIU, the early voting will again be held in the Holmes Student Center.

The Voices section of NIU Today features opinions and perspectives from across campus. Lori Clark is director of State and Federal Relations for NIU.

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