Press Releases

WASHINGTON – U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine (both D-VA) today applauded $284,142 in federal funding from the Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC) to boost innovation and skills training in the Town of Pulaski, and to provide direct technical assistance for initiatives that help develop local economies and infrastructures in Virginia’s 25 Appalachian counties and eight Appalachian cities

“As our economy continues to evolve, we need to make sure that we’re investing in workers across Appalachia and making sure they’re equipped with the skills they need to succeed in new industries,” said the Senators. “We are glad to know that these grants will help set the groundwork for important skills training and economic development in the region.”

  • The Town of Pulaski will receive $44,142 for a project that will help create a plan for a training center and makerspace. The center will seek to increase the number of workers trained in skills needed in the region and provide a location for innovators and entrepreneurs to work. The plan will also assess the potential for programming to include individuals not traditionally able or inclined to seek training such as those pursuing second careers, post-incarceration, or post-addiction.
  • The Virginia Department of Housing & Community Development will receive $240,000 to assist in the administration of the Virginia ARC program, which helps promote long- and short-term economic development, infrastructure development, skills training, telecommunications, local capacity building, entrepreneurial assistance, education, and health care in the Commonwealth’s 25 Appalachian counties and eight Appalachian cities. The funding will support direct technical assistance for initiatives in ARC communities, as well as the salaries and benefits for nine staffers.  

The funding was awarded through ARC, an economic development agency of the federal government and 13 state governments focusing on 420 counties in the Appalachian region. ARC's mission is to innovate, partner, and invest in the growth of new industries in Appalachia to diversify the region’s economy. Warner and Kaine have been strong advocates for a fully funded ARC so that it can continue to increase employment and economic opportunities for those living in Appalachia.

 ###

Washington, D.C. – Led by U.S. Senator Patty Murray (D-WA), ranking member of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee, 45 Senators sent a letter to Acting Secretary Patrick Pizzella opposing the Labor Department’s recent proposal to undermine the highly effective and widely supported registered apprenticeship program. The proposed rule would create duplicative, unnecessary, and lower-quality “industry-recognized apprenticeship programs” (IRAPs), that would not provide the same crucial benefits and protections as long-established registered apprenticeships. The Department has also proposed the establishment of new “standard recognition entities” to oversee the IRAPs, allowing these programs to potentially evade accountability, even to apprentices themselves.

“Rather than invest federal taxpayer dollars in a duplicative, less rigorous, and unproven model of workforce training with little to no accountability, the Department and the Trump Administration should work with Congress and stakeholders to strengthen and modernize the registered apprenticeship system to build more pathways for workers to enter middle class jobs,” wrote the Senators.

The Senators also questioned whether the proposed rule is truly consistent with National Apprenticeship Act, which entrusted the Labor Department to “safeguard the health, safety, and welfare of apprentices.” In February, Senator Murray and her colleagues pressed the Department of Labor for answers on the proposed rule and raised questions about whether the Department was using funds appropriated by Congress for registered apprenticeships for IRAPs.

In addition to Senator Murray, the letter was signed by Senators Baldwin (D-WI), Bennet (D-CO), Blumenthal (D-CT), Booker (D-NJ), Brown (D-OH), Cantwell (D-WA), Cardin (D-MD), Carper (D-DE), Casey (D-PA), Coons (D-DE), Cortez Masto (D-NV), Duckworth (D-IL), Durbin (D-IL), Feinstein (D-CA), Gillibrand (D-NY), Harris (D-CA), Hassan (D-NH), Heinrich (D-NM), Hirono (D-HI), Kaine (D-VA), King (I-ME), Klobuchar (D-MN), Leahy (D-VT), Manchin (D-WV), Markey (D-MA), Menendez (D-NJ), Merkley (D-OR), Murphy (D-CT), Peters (D-MI), Reed (D-RI), Rosen (D-NV), Sanders (I-VT), Schatz (D-HI), Schumer (D-NY), Shaheen (D-NH), Smith (D-MN), Stabenow (D-MI), Tester (D-MT), Udall (D-NM), Van Hollen (D-MD), Warner (D-VA), Warren (D-MA), Whitehouse (D-RI), and Wyden (D-OR).

Full text of the letter is below and the PDF is HERE.

 

August 26, 2019

 The Honorable Patrick Pizzella

Acting Secretary

Department of Labor

200 Constitution Avenue, NW

Washington, DC 20210

RE: DOL Docket Number. ETA-2019-000, RIN 1205-AB85, Apprenticeship Programs, Labor Standards for Registration, Amendment of Regulations

Dear Acting Secretary Pizzella:

We write in strong opposition to the U.S. Department of Labor’s (“Department” or DOL) proposed rule to create Industry-Recognized Apprenticeship Programs (IRAPs or “Industry Programs”), and to request a 60-day extension of the public comment period for the Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM). The NPRM would undermine important standards around wages, training structure and quality, and equal opportunity employment, would create uncertainty for the regulated community by establishing a confusing, unnecessary, and duplicative program, and disregards congressional intent to “safeguard the welfare of apprentices.”[1]

In enacting the National Apprenticeship Act of 1937, Congress authorized and directed the Secretary of Labor to formulate and promote labor standards to safeguard the health, safety, and welfare of apprentices.[2] The Department’s regulations implementing the Act establish such standards and prescribe policies and procedures for the registration of acceptable apprenticeship programs with the Department.[3] Under the Department’s longstanding regulations, apprenticeship programs seeking the Department’s approval, support, and financial assistance must commit to providing apprentices with a number of crucial protections and benefits.

The Department’s proposal, however, would not guarantee most of these benefits to apprentices who participate in IRAPs instead of registered apprenticeships.  This NPRM would enable so-called Industry Programs to circumvent the quality assurance standards and protections of the registered apprenticeship system. Instead, the Department proposes to authorize new, nongovernmental Standards Recognition Entities (SREs) to establish, recognize, and monitor the quality of IRAPs—with minimal accountability to the federal government, states, or apprentices themselves. We are especially concerned that the Department’s purported hallmarks of quality for IRAPs do not include some of the most crucial standards required of registered apprenticeship programs. In particular, this proposal would not require IRAPs to guarantee: minimum hours or specific requirements for on-the-job training and classroom-based instruction, nationally recognized stackable and portable credentials of value, workplace safety and equal opportunity protections beyond those already required by law, or guaranteed wage progression.

It is not clear how the Department’s proposal to upend registered apprenticeship is consistent with Congressional intent. The National Apprenticeship Act empowers the Department to “bring together employers and labor for the formulation of programs of apprenticeships”—that is not what the Department proposes. Rather, this rule would create a parallel system that outsources the Secretary’s statutory role in overseeing the Nation’s registered apprenticeship programs to unaccountable, nongovernmental entities.

The Department’s proposal is yet one more attempt to undermine the Nation’s registered apprenticeship system, which has existed for 80 years and enjoys broad support from Congress, workers, and industry alike. The Department undercuts the standards that have been the hallmark of registered apprenticeships by allowing IRAPs to bypass the Department’s longstanding approval and quality assurance process, removing the crucial role of state governments in maintaining the integrity of programs operating within their states, substantially weakening protections and guarantees for workers, and causing confusion for businesses and industries. This is particularly troubling coming on the heels of the Department’s repeated attempts to divert the annual discretionary appropriation to support the development of IRAPs, despite the Department having acknowledged on record that it must be spent exclusively on the registered apprenticeships in accordance with the law.

The Department asserts its proposed “industry-led, market-driven approach provides the flexibility necessary to scale the apprenticeship model where it is needed most and helps address America’s skills gap.” However, the Department has presented no evidence showing IRAPS will be effective, let alone superior, to registered apprenticeship programs. On the contrary, existing apprenticeship programs have one of the highest rates of return on investment for employers of any workforce advancement programs.  Rather than invest federal taxpayer dollars in a duplicative, less rigorous, and unproven model of workforce training with little to no accountability, the Department and the Trump Administration should work with Congress and stakeholders to strengthen and modernize the registered apprenticeship system to build more pathways for workers to enter middle class jobs.

We oppose the Department’s efforts to water down the quality of apprenticeship programs by removing worker protections, lowering the quality of credentials and training, and providing federal funds to unaccountable organizations to provide unproven training. We urge the Department to reconsider its proposal. We also request a 60-day extension of the public comment period for the NPRM to allow Congress, stakeholders, and the public adequate time to respond to these potential changes, as well as a Departmental briefing on the proposal as soon as possible.

Sincerely,

WASHINGTON, D.C. - Today, U.S. Senators Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine announced $17,417,978 in federal grant funding through the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) for Head Start programs throughout Virginia.

“The Head Start program plays an important role in helping schools and organizations across the Commonwealth get the resources they need to support young children,” the Senators said. “We’re excited to announce this funding that promotes early childhood development.” 

The following organizations will receive funding:

  • Stafford County School District will receive $2,604,803.
  • Rooftop of Virginia Community Action Program in Galax will receive $2,400,889.
  • Southside Training Employment and Placement Services Inc. in Farmville will receive $3,245,314.
  • Richmond City Public Schools will receive $7,838,807.
  • Williamsburg James City County Community Action Agency Inc. will receive $1,328,165.

As Governors and Senators, Warner and Kaine have advocated for investments in early childhood education. Head Start programs promote school readiness for children under 5 years old from low-income families through health, education, family support, and social services.

###

WASHINGTON – This week, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) proposed modernizing the reporting and disclosure of human capital management practices. 

The SEC’s announcement follows efforts by U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA) to require companies to disclose more information about their human capital management policies and practices. These additional disclosures will provide greater insight into workforce development and help drive value in an increasingly knowledge-based economy.

Last July, Sen. Warner, a former business executive and current member of the Senate Banking Committee, pressed the SEC to use its rulemaking authority to require companies to tell shareholders whether and how they are investing in their workforces through human capital management disclosures. The SEC’s proposed rule contains many of the suggestions Sen. Warner called for in his July letter.   

“I’m excited to see the SEC take this important step to recognize the significance of human capital management and the role it plays in the 21st century economy. Many of the ideas outlined in the proposed rule would go a long way in providing investors with the information they need to evaluate whether a company is making the appropriate investments in its workforce. As this rulemaking moves forward, I look forward to working with the SEC to develop a robust human capital disclosure regime for companies to help promote workforce training and investment, and sustain long-term economic growth,” said Sen. Warner. 

Human capital management disclosures provide a snapshot of how U.S. companies compensate, train, retain, and incentivize their employees. Several studies have found that human capital management disclosures are an important predictor of a company’s long-term success in a changing economy. For example, a 2015 McKinsey study found that firms that prioritize learning programs for their employees perform better overall than those that do not. As the Investor Advisory Committee also noted, a recent Harvard report found a positive correlation between disclosed training programs and financial performance. Requiring companies to disclose human capital management indicators would provide investors with a better understanding of a firm’s performance and potential for long-term growth. 

The SEC’s current human capital disclosure requirements are extremely limited, requiring disclosures only of the number of employees, their median compensation, and CEO compensation. In a July letter, Sen. Warner urged the SEC to heed the calls of investors and utilize its rulemaking authority to require companies across the board to provide further details relating to human capital management. Specifically, Sen. Warner encouraged the SEC to revise and modernize Regulation S-K to require public reporting companies to disclose more qualitative and quantitative information regarding human capital. While the SEC would be responsible for developing and finalizing the requirements, human capital disclosures could potentially require firms to make public information about employee education and training programs; workforce demographics; employee turnover; employee compensation; and workforce compensation and incentives.

###

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senators Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine joined Senator Patty Murray and 27 of their colleagues in sending a letter to Education Secretary Betsy DeVos urging the Department of Education to fulfill its duty by providing assistance to the 32,000 students that have been impacted by the recent and sudden closures of three for-profit college chains: Education Corporation of America, which operated Virginia College in Chesterfield; Vatterott Educational Centers; and Dream Center Education Holdings, which operated the now closed Argosy University’s Northern Virginia campus.  Recent Department of Education data shows that only 11 percent of the students eligible for “closed school” loan discharge have received the relief they are owed. Additionally, only 4 percent of those impacted have been able to continue their education at another college.

“Thousands of students and their families impacted by the sudden closure of for-profit college chains across the country deserve assistance in moving on with their educational careers and shedding the debt they acquired during a tumultuous experience with higher education,” wrote the Senators.

Instead of helping students who were cheated or defrauded by these predatory colleges, Secretary DeVos hired former for-profit college executives and lobbyists at the Department and abdicated her responsibility to investigate these institutions. She rescinded an Obama Administration-era rule to protect students from being scammed by for-profit colleges. Secretary DeVos has also refused to provide relief to cheated and defrauded students for over a year—leaving almost 180,000 students without answers, including many who have been struggling to pay back loans on worthless or non-existent degrees.

In addition to Warner, Kaine, and Murray, the letter is also signed by U.S. Senators Dick Durbin (D-IL), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Cory Booker (D-NJ), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Tom Carper (D-DE), Bob Casey (D-PA), Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV), Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Kamala Harris (D-CA), Maggie Hassan (D-NH), Mazie Hirono (D-HI), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Ed Markey (D-MA), Robert Menendez (D-NJ), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Chris Murphy (D-CT), Jack Reed (D-RI), Jacky Rosen (D-NV), Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ), Tina Smith (D-MN), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), Ron Wyden (D-OR).

Full text of the letter is below and the PDF is HERE.

 

August 5, 2019

The Honorable Betsy DeVos

Secretary of Education

U.S. Department of Education

400 Maryland Avenue, S.W.

Washington, D.C. 20202

Dear Secretary DeVos:

We are extremely concerned by the U.S. Department of Education’s (“Department”) inadequate response to the recent abrupt closures of multiple institutions of higher education. Three major collapses of for-profit college chains, including those owned by Education Corporation of America (ECA), Vatterott Educational Centers, Inc. (“Vatterott”), and Dream Center Education Holdings (DCEH), have severely disrupted the lives of more than 32,000 students nationwide. The vast majority of those affected have not received meaningful assistance in continuing their education, nor have they received the debt relief owed to them under the law, after their lives were upended by the pursuit of profit over the interest of students.

Recent data provided by the Department shows how few of the former students from ECA, Vatterott, and DCEH have been able to continue their education elsewhere or discharge their debt. Just 11 percent of borrowers that the Department estimates to be eligible for a “closed school loan discharge” from the three for-profit college chains have received such discharge.[1] Just 4 percent of students who were enrolled at the time of the closures have successfully transferred to another college.[2] 

The Department has a duty to help students impacted by school closures. Providing such students with prompt information about loan discharge and transfer options is critical to allowing them to recover. The Department must, therefore, ensure that every closing institution of higher education carries out its regulatory requirement to “provide all enrolled students with a closed school discharge application and a written disclosure, describing the benefits and consequences of a closed school discharge as an alternative to completing their educational program.[3]

As indicated by the Department’s own guidance, the underlying regulations have been in effect since July 1, 2017 and therefore were applicable when ECA, Vatterott, and DCEH closed.[4] However, when asked about its legal obligation to enforce this regulation, the Department recently and falsely stated that ECA, Vatterott, and DCEH were“not required to comply with the March 15, 2019 borrower defense guidance.”[5] The receivers and trustees of ECA, Vatterott, and DCEH must still ensure compliance with federal law. We, therefore, urge the Department to fulfill its responsibility to enforce applicable regulations and ensure students affected by these closures are fully informed of their options.

The Department also has the authority to help borrowers who left closing institutions more than four months (120 days) before the precipitous closures—often when the colleges were showing clear signs of financial instability, accreditation problems, or regulatory scrutiny.[6] Previous requests to extend the “120-day window” for closed school discharges for students who attended ECA, Vatterott, and DCEH colleges have gone largely unanswered. Yet, in recent information provided to Congress, the Department stated that “the Secretary has not issued a decision on whether to extend the date for determining eligibility for a closed school loan discharge” For any of the three college chains.[7] The Department’s extensive delay in making this important decision in each of these cases actively denies borrowers relief.

The Department should also more broadly examine the closed school loan discharge process. Data provided to Congress indicate that even borrowers who successfully discovered the option for such discharge and have submitted the application are experiencing high rates of denial. Nearly 60 percent of borrowers who submitted a closed school discharge application on or after January 20, 2017 have been denied, representing more than 35,000 borrowers.[8] Among students who specifically attended ECA, Vatterott, and DCEH, and submitted a closed school discharge application, fewer than half (44 percent) have actually been approved, leaving nearly 5,600 of these applicants in limbo.[9] When so many borrowers that submit a closed school discharge application are being rejected, the Department must reevaluate its processes to ensure that borrowers receive the support and assistance they need, deserve, and that Congress intended.

The Department must fulfill its obligations to assist students in the aftermath of a traumatic event such as a sudden school closure. To ensure that students receive the relief they deserve, we strongly urge the Department to:

  1. Examine the full record of all press articles, accreditation agency sanctions, state agency notices, lawsuits, investigations, public complaints, discontinuation of programs, faculty layoffs, and any other adverse actions that may have reasonably caused students to leave their college to determine the dates for extensions of the 120-day window for closed school discharge for ECA, Vatterott, and DCEH.
  2. After extending the discharge window, begin an outreach campaign, through all of its federally contracted servicers and debt collectors, to borrowers that are eligible for closed school discharge but have not yet successfully submitted an application or transferred to another institution. This outreach campaign should include proactive, outbound calls to borrowers who have submitted a closed school discharge application but have been denied.
  3. Enforce its own regulations that closing institutions of higher education provide students with information regarding loan relief and transfer opportunities.
  4. Reexamine its policies for processing closed school loan discharge applications to ensure students are quickly given the relief to which they are entitled under the law.
  5. Publish quarterly information on closed school discharge applications by state (disaggregated by approved, pending, and denied), and the primary reasons for all denials, similar to information the Department publishes about other types of discharge.

Thousands of students and their families impacted by the sudden closure of for-profit college chains across the country deserve assistance in moving on with their educational careers and shedding the debt they acquired during a tumultuous experience with higher education. The anemic rates of approval for closed school discharge or transfer for these students threatens to erode their confidence in our system of higher education and in federal financial aid.

We urge you to take the above steps to assist the former students of ECA, Vatterott, and DCEH as soon as possible. If you have any questions, you may contact Bryce McKibben with the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions staff at (202) 224-5501. Thank you for your attention to this urgent matter.

Sincerely,

 

WASHINGTON – Yesterday, U.S. Senators Todd Young (R-Ind.), Mark Warner (D-Va.), Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), and Chris Coons (D-Del.) introduced the ISA Student Protection Act to improve an innovative financing tool for students pursuing postsecondary education.

Income Share Agreements (ISAs) provide opportunities for students to design financial aid best suited to their needs based on their future income and job success. Under an ISA, a student agrees to pay a percentage of their income over a given time period in exchange for tuition payments from nongovernmental sources. When the agreed timeframe ends, the student stops payments regardless of whether the initial amount was paid back to the ISA funder. 

This bipartisan bill would help safeguard ISAs with consumer protections to improve their effectiveness – protecting students and ensuring their success in the workforce.

“Far too often I hear of students and their families being forced to endure financial hardship in exchange for a quality education. Government-provided student loan debt continues to skyrocket while the average household income decreases,” said Senator Young. “That’s why I have introduced a bill to offer students from all backgrounds with a private – or philanthropically – funded, debt-free financing option catered to their own income needs through the use of Income Share Agreements (ISAs). If we strengthen the framework of ISAs, we can help colleges and career and technical schools prepare Americans for rewarding careers, all without any additional cost to taxpayers.”

“Income-Share Agreements are a promising way to finance postsecondary education and an attractive alternative to private student loans and PLUS loans. ISAs are also proving to be uniquely responsive to the needs of students who are ineligible for existing federal student aid programs—including DACA recipients, some justice-involved individuals, and those attending short-term training programs,” said Senator Warner. “There are students across the country who are already benefitting from ISAs and deserve the safeguards and certainty the ISA Student Protection Act would provide, including protections during periods of low earnings, dischargeability in bankruptcy, and oversight authority by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. I’m pleased to be introducing this legislation with a bipartisan group of my colleagues and look forward to working to ensure ISAs continue expanding in a student-focused way.”

“It’s getting harder and harder for American families to afford the rising costs of college, and graduates are often forced to run up tens of thousands of dollars in student loan debt,” said Senator Rubio. “I am proud to re-introduce this innovative legislation to empower students to leverage their future income today and access the financial resources of businesses, individuals, and nonprofit organizations in order to achieve their higher education goals.”

“Despite $1.6 trillion in U.S. student loan debt, millions of well-paying jobs continue to go unfilled. In an economy in need of more investment in postsecondary education and training opportunities, Income Share Agreements are a promising tool. Most importantly, ISAs protect students from the risk of onerous debt and elevate programs that guide students to well-paying jobs. The ISA Student Bill of Rights Act will allow the innovation of ISAs to proceed safely and with more government oversight, to the benefit of American students and families,” said Senator Coons.

This legislation has been endorsed by The Aspen Institute’s Future of Work Initiative, Colorado Mountain College (CMC), JFF, Marymount University, the Progressive Policy Institute, the San Diego Workforce Partnership, Purdue University, and the University of Utah.

President Mitch Daniels, Purdue University said, “Purdue will offer ISAs for a fourth academic year at Purdue this fall. Since its inception, our ‘Back a Boiler’ program has drawn a flood of inquiries from universities hoping to implement similar ISA programs. This bipartisan legislation should receive prompt consideration to provide the framework necessary to expand this student-friendly option to more students nationwide who wish to be protected against the risks of excessive student loans.”  

Chok Ooi, CEO and Co-founder of Kenzie Academy, an Indianapolis-based career college focused on providing technology training to anyone looking to accelerate their career said, “ISAs are a tool that can make post-secondary skills training more accessible and affordable for the millions of adult learners aspiring to acquire today's most in-demand jobs. Given ISAs are a powerful – and necessary – access tool, we want to make sure there are standards and best practices in place so they are used appropriately to protect the consumer and hold bad actors accountable.”

Dr. Irma Becerra, President of Marymount University in Arlington, Virginia said, “As a small university with finite resources in a major metropolitan area, we are constantly looking for solutions in support of our students who face unique challenges in completing their postsecondary education. Marymount has identified income-share agreements as a promising solution to some of these challenges. Income-share agreements will help us fill financial gaps in serving all of our students, regardless of their socioeconomic background. I applaud the sponsors of the ISA Student Protection Act for their efforts to support programs like ours and ensure income-share agreements continue expanding in a student-focused way.”

Kevin James, Founder and CEO of Better Future Forward said, “ISAs have tremendous promise as a tool to help address gaps in educational equity. However, like any financial tool, ISAs also create opportunities for bad actors. We, therefore, commend Sens. Warner, Young, Rubio and Coons for their critically important work to protect students and foster innovation in the student financing space. We believe this bill will advance a healthy public conversation about ISAs and the best approach to crafting a legal framework that protects students and supports access to this innovative new option."

Former Governor Jack Markell said, “Income Share Agreements have given students who have not otherwise had access to financial aid - such as Dreamers and adult learners - the ability to finance their postsecondary education. I commend the bi-partisan sponsors of The ISA Student Protection Act for legislation that authorizes critical consumer protections which will provide greater certainty to students and this growing market.”

To see a full list of endorsement quotes, please click here

The ISA Student Protection Act would codify the following safeguards and consumer protections for ISA recipients:

  • Individuals making less than 200 percent of the Federal Poverty Level ($24,980 in 2019) are exempt from making payments towards their ISA.
  • ISA providers cannot make agreements with students that require payments higher than 20 percent of income for shorter-term contracts, with the cap decreasing to 7.5 percent for the longest contracts allowed (30 years).
  • ISAs are dischargeable in bankruptcy.
  • Funders must disclose to students how their monthly payments would compare under the ISA to payments on a private or federal loan for the same amount of money and number of payments.
  • Applies federal consumer protection laws (i.e. Fair Credit Reporting Act, Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, Military Lending Act, Servicemembers Civil Relief Act, Equal Credit Opportunity Act) to ISAs.
  • Gives the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau oversight authority over ISAs.
  • Clarifies the tax treatment of ISA contributions for both funders and recipients.

Last Congress, Senators Young and Rubio introduced a version of this bill entitled the Investing in Student Success Act, and other versions were previously introduced in the House and Senate. This is the first Senate version of the bill to have bipartisan support.

For the full bill text, click here.

###

“ISAs have tremendous promise as a tool to help address gaps in educational equity. However, like any financial tool, ISAs also create opportunities for bad actors. We, therefore, commend Sens. Warner, Young, Rubio and Coons for their critically important work to protect students and foster innovation in the student financing space. We believe this bill will advance a healthy public conversation about ISAs and the best approach to crafting a legal framework that protects students and supports access to this innovative new option,” said Kevin James, Founder and CEO of Better Future Forward.

WASHINGTON – U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA) today sent a letter to U.S. Secretary of the Navy Richard Spencer, urging the Department to strongly consider Hampton Roads as the location for a first-of-its-kind Naval University System-Naval Community College (NUS-NCC) Center of Excellence.

“I write today to bring your attention to a proposal by Old Dominion University (ODU) to locate a Naval University System-Naval Community College (NUS-NCC) Center of Excellence in the Hampton Roads region of Virginia, and to ask that you give this proposal serious consideration,” wrote Sen. Warner.

In a February memo by Secretary Spencer, the Navy suggested that enlisted servicemembers would highly benefit from further educational opportunities to help with naval readiness and professional development. To assist in that effort, the memo recommended that the Navy create a new Naval University System to assist with that mission. In response, Old Dominion University (ODU) President John R. Broderick proposed that the Navy consider Hampton Roads to house the future institution.

“We stand ready to move forward with a Naval University System-Naval Community College Center of Excellence in our region,” said John R. Broderick, President, Old Dominion University. “Hampton Roads already benefits from a spirit of collegiality and cooperation, with close interactions linking higher education, government agencies, the military, and the private sector. With our region’s unrivaled strengths in areas such as sea level rise, maritime trade and supply chain management, and modeling and simulation, we believe we are strongly positioned to help the Navy provide a dynamic educational experience and professional development to its personnel.”

In today’s letter, Sen. Warner urges the Navy to strongly consider ODU’s proposal to select Hampton Roads for the location of their Naval University System as the region boasts a large naval footprint. Additionally, with existing partnerships between the U.S. Navy and many local institutions – including ODU’s Virginia Modeling and Simulation Center (VMASC) and William and Mary’s Whole of Government Center of Excellence – Hampton Roads is the logical choice for this endeavor.

A copy of Sen. Warner’s letter can be found here and below.

 

The Honorable Richard Spencer

Secretary of the Navy

1000 Navy Pentagon, Room 4D652

Washington, DC 20350

Dear Secretary Spencer:

I write today to bring your attention to a proposal by Old Dominion University (ODU) to locate a Naval University System-Naval Community College (NUS-NCC) Center of Excellence in the Hampton Roads region of Virginia, and to ask that you give this proposal serious consideration.

On February 5, 2019, you released a memo entitled “Education for Seapower Decisions and Immediate Actions,” making a set of recommendations to create a Naval University System, including a Naval Community College, in order to integrate and align naval education and strengthen the professional development and war fighting competence of U.S. Sailors and Marines. 

In response to your memo, ODU submitted a proposal on May 15, 2019, in collaboration with a number of other stakeholders in the Commonwealth of Virginia, to partner with the Navy and offer the Hampton Roads region as an ideal location for the NUS-NCC Center of Excellence. The Hampton Roads region includes the seven cities of Norfolk, Virginia Beach, Chesapeake, Portsmouth, Newport News, Hampton, and Suffolk. For the purposes of this proposal, Williamsburg – home to The College of William and Mary (W&M) – is also included. 

The Hampton Roads region includes 14 universities, colleges, and community colleges, plus many satellite campuses, offering an intellectual ecosystem, significant infrastructure and partnership opportunities for your effort. In addition, it is strategically positioned given the large U.S. Navy presence in the region, existing relationships many institutions have with the U.S. Navy, and unique capabilities such as the ODU Virginia Modeling and Simulation Center (VMASC) and the W&M Whole of Government Center of Excellence, which are exclusive to this region.

I understand the search for the ideal partners and location for a NUS-NCC may be a complex and highly competitive process, and I appreciate your consideration of the ODU proposal. Please do not hesitate to reach out if you have any questions about my request.

Thank you again for your consideration.

Sincerely,

###

WASHINGTON – U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine (both D-VA) today applauded more than $590,000 in federal funding for Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University to expand digital access to library collections.

“Academic libraries are an invaluable resource with the potential to benefit universities and communities across the Commonwealth, said the Senators. “We are thrilled that this grant will allow Virginia Tech and the Blacksburg community to activate a wealth of existing knowledge and continue to foster learning and innovation.”

  • $505,214 will allow Virginia Tech University Libraries to deploy cutting-edge computer science and machine learning technologies to advance discovery, use, and potential for reuse of the knowledge hidden in the text of books and book-length documents. In collaboration with Virginia Tech Computer Science and Old Dominion University Computer Science, the effort will devise methods for the extracting and analyzing segments of long documents (chapters, reference lists, tables, figures), as well as methods for summarizing individual chapters of longer texts to enable findability.
  • $87,151 will go towards developing a model for community engagement that fosters robust partnerships among academic libraries and regional organizations in Blacksburg, Va. This model will help expand digital access to collections and networks that are rich in cultural heritage but are isolated due to a lack of robust digital infrastructures.

This funding was awarded through the Institute of Museum and Library Services National Leadership Grants for Libraries program, which funds projects that enhance the quality of library and archive services nationwide by advancing theory and practice.

###

WASHINGTON — Today, U.S. Senators Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine released the following statement regarding the Trump Administration’s decision to scrap plans to transfer Job Corps Civilian Conservation Centers from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to the Department of Labor (DOL) and close nine Job Corps Civilian Conservation Centers – including the Flatwoods Job Corps Civilian Conservation Center in Coeburn, a top performing center: 

“Job training facilities like Flatwoods are critical to prepare Virginians for success in our economy. It’s welcome news that following our bipartisan calls for the Trump Administration to reverse course on their misguided proposal, they listened and will keep the Flatwoods facility open. We are thrilled that Flatwoods will be able to keep expanding economic opportunities in Southwest Virginia.”

Following the initial USDA and DOL announcement that the Flatwoods Job Corps Civilian Conservation Center in Coeburn and eight other Job Corps Civilian Conservation Centers were scheduled to close as part of the program’s transfer from USDA to DOL, Senators Warner and Kaine introduced legislation to prevent the Trump Administration from closing these facilities. The bipartisan Job Corps Protection Act would block the Administration from using federal government funds in 2019 or 2020 to close any Job Corps Civilian Conservation Centers in the United States. The Senators also joined Rep. Morgan Griffith (R-VA) in writing a letter urging DOL and USDA to reconsider the closure of these facilities. Separately, Warner and Kaine joined a bipartisan, bicameral group of 18 Senators and 33 Representatives in pushing USDA and DOL to reverse their decision to end the Civilian Conservation Center program in its current form and shutter nine facilities across the nation.

###

 

WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Senators Mark Warner (D-VA) and Rob Portman (R-OH) introduced bipartisan legislation, the Go To High School, Go To College Act, which will make college more affordable for low-income students by letting them earn college credits while still in high school, funded through the Pell Grant program. The legislation will create the College in High School Federal Pell Grant Pilot Program, which will build upon the Department of Education’s Experimental Site for Dual Enrollment. Representatives Marcia Fudge (D-OH) and Elise Stefanik (R-NY) are leading the legislation in the U.S. House of Representatives.

“Cost alone shouldn’t deter motivated young people who are willing to work hard and get an early start on their postsecondary education," said Warner. “This legislation will provide an essential resource for low-income students for whom college or a competitive start in the workforce might otherwise seem out of reach.”

“The average cost of college tuition and fees at national universities continues to skyrocket,” Portman said. “For high school students from low-income households, that can make college feel out of reach. Our legislation will let these students get a head start on college, make it more affordable for them and their families, and help them live out their God-given potential.”

“What’s always been important is now imperative: the rising cost of college and our nation’s need for a skilled workforce mandate that all students can engage in early and affordable pathways to high-quality credential and degree programs,” said Joel Vargas, JFF vice president. “JFF applauds the Go to High School, Go to College Act for its innovative approach to expanding equitable access to high-quality dual enrollment programs that have continually proven to enable more low-income students to earn college credit while in high school. We are also pleased that a robust evaluation is included, which will ensure policymakers and practitioners can learn from the program’s results. This effort will expand access to dual enrollment programs, reduce the time and cost of earning a college credential, and improve educational outcomes while strengthening our economies and communities.”

“College in High School programs, such as dual and concurrent enrollment, engage a wide variety of students in an equivalent variety of courses. Dual enrollment programs are not just for the academically élite, although they certainly thrive here, but inclusive of aspiring welders, pilots, carpenters, nurses, engineers, database architects, and entrepreneurs: all students and all courses,” said Amy Williams, Executive Director of the National Alliance of Concurrent Enrollment Partnerships. “Students in these programs find early access to and success in college, helping them advance to college with focus and direction. The data show that students participating in these programs are more likely to go to college, to persist in their studies, and complete a degree or credential in a timely manner. This is a high-value program that benefits educators, students, families, employers, and the American education system as a whole, yet access and affordability are still fundamental barriers to participation. The Go to High School, Go to College Act creates an innovative space to support students early exposure to a successful future through affordable access to postsecondary education and training. NACEP, the nation's leading organization working to advance quality college courses for high school students by supporting programs, practitioners, and policy. We enthusiastically support this legislation as an important step to address higher education access and affordability for all Americans.”

“At KnowledgeWorks, we’ve seen the power of early college firsthand as students who are the first in their family to go to college get a jump start on their dreams with a high school diploma and an associate degree. While a university president, I saw how dual enrollment could reduce the cost of college, reduce the time to a degree and significantly reduce student loan debt. The Go to High School, Go to College Act can provide a multiplying effect to students and their families on the basis of costs and an opportunity for institutions to provide innovative opportunities to accelerate degrees. This bill has the potential to make the opportunity of college real for many more students and the dream of a degree a reality,” said KnowledgeWorks President and CEO, Chuck Ambrose, EdD.

“Students in middle/early college programs are guided through post-secondary degree earning pathways while in high school,” said Dr. Cece Cunningham, Executive Director of the Middle College National Consortium. “Our average student completes over 20 credits prior to high school graduation, and many graduate with an associates degree. The support from the Go to High School Go to College Act is a tremendous opportunity for our first-generation low-income students.”

“Research and experience demonstrate that students who have the opportunity to earn college credits and degrees while still in high school are significantly more likely to enroll in and complete postsecondary education,” said Clara Botstein, Associate Vice President at Bard Early Colleges. “Early college high school is an effective, powerful free college approach, but access is currently far too limited. The Go to High School, Go to College Act will allow many more low-income students to access high-quality early college opportunities, increasing postsecondary completion nationwide.”

“In today’s economy, postsecondary education is not a luxury, it’s a requirement. Too often, however, students’ pathways through college are thwarted by mounting debt. Thus, a significant challenge is how to increase access to college while decreasing student debt? While it doesn’t require a silver bullet, it will take a smart policy. The Go to High School, Go to College Act is exactly that. It offers an opportunity for underserved students to earn college credit while in high school, at no cost to them,” said Deb Delisle, president of the Alliance for Excellent Education. “Given that students with early college experiences are five to seven times more likely to earn a postsecondary credential, the evidence shows that this type of solution works.  There is no question that it must be included in a reauthorization of the Higher Education Act.”

NOTE: The Go to High School, Go to College Act will authorize a pilot program for 250 institutions of higher education to allow high school students participating in dual enrollment programs offered by that institution the opportunity to apply for Pell grant funding to earn transferable college credits, including core general education requirements. The proposed College in High School Federal Pell Grant Pilot Program will build upon the Department of Education’s Experimental Site for Dual Enrollment in two important ways:

  • Students will have the opportunity to earn up to two semesters worth of college credit before drawing down from their 12 semester Pell Grant limit, ensuring that students participating in dual enrollment programs are not penalized financially.
  • The pilot program includes a robust evaluation mechanism, which the current experimental site lacks.

In addition, the pilot program retains and builds upon other student protections and quality assurance mechanisms in the existing experimental site, including ensuring that students have credit transfer options available to them for college credit earned in a dual enrollment program beyond just the issuing institution of higher education.

###

WASHINGTON – U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine (both D-VA) released the following statement on the United States Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) proposal to relocate two research agencies, the Economic Research Service (ERS) and the National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA), from Washington, D.C. to Kansas City.

“USDA’s proposed relocation of the Economic Research Service and National Institute of Food and Agriculture will unnecessarily uproot hundreds of dedicated federal employees and could negatively impact the missions of both agencies,” the Senators said. “These agencies play a critical role in setting agricultural, nutritional, and environmental policy in the U.S. Disconnecting them from other vital research agencies in the National Capital Region will undoubtedly disrupt the work they carry out and impact their ability to attract and retain highly-qualified personnel. We have introduced legislation to block this ill-conceived move and will continue to work with our colleagues to keep these agencies in the National Capital Region.”

 In May, Sens. Warner and Kaine, along with other members of Congress representing the National Capital Region, sent a letter to Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue urging him not to relocate ERS and NIFA. The Senators have also introduced legislation barring the research agencies from leaving the National Capital Region. In addition, Sen. Warner has placed a hold on nominee Scott Hutchins for Undersecretary for research, education, and economics at the Department of Agriculture in opposition to the proposed relocation.

###

WASHINGTON – U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine (both D-VA) introduced legislation that would prevent the Trump Administration from closing the Flatwoods Job Corps Civilian Conservation Center in Coeburn, Va. The bipartisan Job Corps Protection Act would block the Administration from using federal government funds in 2019 or 2020 to close any Job Corps Civilian Conservation Centers in the United States.

The legislation is in response to a Department of Labor (DOL) and United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) announcement that the Flatwoods facility and eight other Job Corps Civilian Conservation Centers are scheduled to close as part of the program’s transfer from USDA to DOL. Civilian Conservation Centers provide valuable job training for young adults ages 16 to 24 in rural communities across the country, including in Southwest Virginia, while assisting in the conservation of the nation’s limited public natural resources. This legislation also comes on the heels of a letter that Sens. Warner and Kaine, along with Rep. Morgan Griffith (R-VA), sent to the Trump Administration last week, urging DOL and USDA to reconsider the closure of these facilities.    

“For decades, the Flatwoods Job Corps facility in Coeburn, Virginia has helped equip young Virginians with the skills needed to succeed in today’s changing economy,” said Sen. Warner. “Closing the door on this vital program would not only make it harder to expand economic opportunities in Southwest Virginia, it will also make it harder for Virginia’s employers to find the kind of high-skilled talent that the jobs of tomorrow will require.”

“Job training is at the core of preparing our next generation for good-paying jobs in Virginia and across the country. I’m worried about the Trump Administration’s decision to close nine Job Corps Civilian Conservation Centers – including Flatwoods Job Corps in Coeburn, Va., a top performing Center that has a tremendous economic impact in Southwest Virginia. There’s agreement on both sides of the aisle that President Trump shouldn’t take funding away from these critical job training programs, and Congress can prevent him from doing so by passing our bill,” Sen. Kaine said.

In addition to Sens. Warner and Kaine, the Job Corps Protection Act is sponsored by Sens. Jon Tester (D-MT), John Boozman (R-AR), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Steve Daines (R-MT), Maria Cantwell (D-WA), Ron Wyden (D-OR), and Tammy Baldwin (D-WI).  

Separately, Sens. Warner and Kaine joined a bipartisan, bicameral group of 18 Senators and 33 Representatives in pushing USDA and DOL to reverse their decision to end the Civilian Conservation Center program in its current form and shutter nine facilities across the nation.

We write to express strong opposition to your Departments’ recent decision to permanently close over a third of Civilian Conservation Center program facilities and end the program in its current form. We strongly urge you to reconsider this decision,” the Senators and Representatives wrote in a letter to U.S. Secretary of Labor Alexander Acosta and U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue. A copy of the letter is available here.

###

 

 

WASHINGTON – With the Senate preparing to reauthorize the Higher Education Act, Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA) today reintroduced three pieces of legislation aimed at providing urgent relief to borrowers amid the ongoing student debt crisis. The bills would give borrowers much-needed support by promoting financial literacy, thus empowering students to make more informed decisions and better manage their debt; making it easier for students to put their existing college course credits to use and receive the degree or credential they have already earned; and providing legal recourse for borrowers needing to sever a joint consolidation loan, including those being held responsible for an abusive or uncommunicative spouse’s loans.

Nationwide, Americans owe more than $1.5 trillion in student loan debt—surpassing credit cards and auto loans as the country’s leading source of non-housing debt. In the Commonwealth of Virginia, 62 percent of recent graduates have student loan debt, with an average debt of more than $33,000, according to the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia (SCHEV).

“Like many Americans, I had to rely on student loans in order to pay for my tuition and graduate from college. However, the rising cost of education has forced more and more people to rely on exorbitant student loans just to have a chance at competing in the workforce,” said Sen. Warner. “As we prepare to reauthorize the Higher Education Act, I am proud to reintroduce three pieces of legislation designed to assist Virginians saddled with unmanageable student loan debt. I urge my colleagues to quickly pass these measures, which empower young borrowers and eliminate pointless policies that make it more difficult for students to receive the degrees they have earned.”

The Empowering Students through Enhanced Financial Counseling Act will take the important step of tackling student loan debt on the front end by increasing financial literacy among prospective borrowers and empowering them to make better-informed decisions about their higher education financing. Current law only requires that institutions provide one-time entrance and exit counseling to student loan borrowers receiving federal student aid, excluding Parent PLUS loans and consolidation loans. This bill will promote financial literacy by requiring that federal student loan borrowers – both students and parents – receive annual counseling that reflects their individual borrowing situation; increasing awareness of accumulating financial obligations by requiring borrowers to consent each year before receiving federal student loans; requiring annual counseling for Pell Grant recipients; and directing the U.S. Secretary of Education to maintain and distribute an online counseling tool that institutions can use to provide the counseling required by the bill.

In addition to Sen. Warner, the Empowering Students through Enhanced Financial Counseling Act is being cosponsored by Sens. Tim Kaine (D-VA), Cory Gardner (R-CO), and Tim Scott (R-SC). This legislation has the support of the National Education Association, Bipartisan Policy Center, UNCF, TICAS, Chiefs for Change, and American Student Assistance.

Another piece of legislation, the Reverse Transfer Efficiency Act, will cut through bureaucratic red tape and make it easier for students to receive degrees they have already earned by facilitating the process of “reverse transferring” college credits – or transferring credits from a four-year institution to a two-year institution in which a student was previously enrolled to identify whether they earned enough credits along the way to receive a degree. The bill creates an additional exemption under the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) to explicitly allow for the sharing of credit data between post-secondary institutions that a student previously attended, for the purpose of determining whether they earned an associate’s degree or certificate along the way. A cautious interpretation of FERPA currently requires students to give their institutions proactive permission to determine whether they have earned enough credits to be awarded a degree or certificate. As a consequence of this unnecessary bureaucratic step – which is proven to diminish credential attainment rates – four million Americans, including more than 123,000 Virginians, have left school without receiving the valuable credentials they paid for and worked hard to earn.

In addition to Sen. Warner, the Reverse Transfer Efficiency Act is being cosponsored by Sen. Johnny Isakson (R-GA). The legislation has the support of the Virginia Community College System, American Association of Collegiate Registrars and Admission Officers, American Association of Community Colleges, Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities, Institute for Higher Education Policy, and Student Veterans of America, among others.

“As Virginia's Community Colleges continue working to prepare students with the skills they need to be successful in on-demand jobs and growth industries, credential attainment is a key indicator of their career readiness and our effectiveness in serving them,” said Glenn DuBois, chancellor of Virginia’s Community Colleges. “The bipartisan Reverse Transfer Efficiency Act will provide much needed clarity in facilitating communication between institutions and removing bureaucratic obstacles to credential attainment. I applaud Senators Warner and Isakson for working across the aisle to find common ground and introduce this sensible approach to advancing workforce readiness.”

Lastly, the Joint Consolidation Loan Separation Act will provide much-needed relief for borrowers who previously consolidated their student loan debt with a spouse’s. Congress eliminated the program in 2006 but failed to provide a way for borrowers to sever existing loans, even in the event of domestic violence, economic abuse, or unresponsiveness. As a result, too many borrowers nationwide remain liable for their abusive or uncommunicative spouse’s debt with no legal options for relief. The bill would establish a process at the U.S. Department of Education through which affected borrowers, including survivors of domestic violence or economic abuse, would be able to separate their student loan debt from that of their former spouse.

In addition to Sen. Warner, the Joint Consolidation Loan Separation Act is being cosponsored by Sens. Marco Rubio (R-FL) and John Cornyn (R-TX). It has the support of the Virginia Sexual and Domestic Violence Action Alliance, the National Network to End Domestic Violence, the National Consumer Law Center (on behalf of its low-income clients), and the North Carolina Coalition Against Domestic Violence.

“The Action Alliance is pleased to support these efforts to provide victims of domestic and economic abuse with student loan relief,” said Jonathan Yglesias, Policy Director at the Virginia Sexual and Domestic Violence Action Alliance. “This bill will make a difference for the people who need it, and I hope Congress will move swiftly to enact it.”

Click here for more information on the Empowering Students through Enhanced Financial Counseling Act, the Reverse Transfer Efficiency Act, and the Joint Consolidation Loan Separation Act.

###

WASHINGTON — U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA) met with the National Teacher of the Year, Rodney Robinson, at Sen. Warner’s office in Washington, D.C. Robinson, a social studies teacher in Richmond, Va., was recently named the 2019 National Teacher of the Year by the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO). He teaches at Virgie Binford Education Center, a school inside the Richmond Juvenile Justice Center.

“It’s clear that Mr. Robinson has devoted his career not just to teaching, but to making meaningful change in the lives of students who need it the most,” said Sen. Warner. “By designing a unique curriculum focused on understanding the history of prison and the juvenile justice system, Mr. Robinson is working to redirect justice-involved students and equip them with the educational opportunity they need to empower themselves. I am proud that teachers in Virginia and all across our nation can look to Mr. Robinson as an example of an educator who uses his classroom to actively tackle a larger structural issue in our society.”  

“Our kids need more – they need more specialized curriculum, more specialized courses,” said Robinson. “I’ve noticed that the kids that have the lowest recidivism rates are the ones we help set up with job or mentorship programs to get them in some sort of positive activity where they can make something out of their lives.”

Robinson has worked for Richmond Public Schools for 19 years, and has been teaching at Virgie Binford Education Center since 2015. In the meeting, Sen. Warner and Robinson discussed the importance of providing students with the resources and opportunities they need to learn technical skills and earn industry certifications that will allow them to make a living in the future.  

The National Teacher of the Year Program is managed by the Council of Chief State School Officers. Each year, the nation’s top teacher is selected from among state teachers of the year representing the 50 states, the District of Columbia, U.S. territories, and the Department of Defense Education Activity.

 

###

 

WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA) joined Sens. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Chuck Grassley (R-IA) and a bipartisan coalition of Senators in reintroducing legislation to combat sexual assault on college and university campuses. The Campus Accountability and Safety Act would reform the way institutions handle incidents of on-campus sexual assault and ensure that investigations and disciplinary proceedings are fair and consistent. It would also create new resources and support services for survivors, and set new notification requirements for both survivors and accused students involved in the campus disciplinary process. 

“In recent years, the brave individuals behind the #MeToo movement have successfully increased public awareness and discussion about sexual assault and harassment, and Congress has a responsibility to support these efforts with legislation that focuses on preventing sexual assault in colleges and universities across the nation,” said Sen. Warner. “I am very proud to reintroduce the bipartisan Campus Accountability and Safety Act, which demands greater transparency, consistency, and accountability from our institutions of higher learning.” 

“Sexual assault is pervasive in colleges and universities all over the country, yet Congress has not done nearly enough to address this crisis,” said Sen. Gillibrand. “For far too long institutions have gotten away with sweeping this problem under the rug. Students are demanding that Congress take this problem seriously, and we must listen to them. That’s why I am proud to reintroduce my bipartisan Campus Accountability and Safety Act, which would hold colleges and universities accountable and help give survivors the support they need. I urge my colleagues to take this issue seriously and fight with us to pass this bipartisan bill.” 

“When something as traumatic as sexual assault occurs on campus, students need a place they can go for support and unbiased information about their rights,” said Sen. Grassley. “This bill takes active steps forward to help facilitate communication and support between universities, students and law enforcement, as well as foster a positive sense of community on campus.”

Specifically, this legislation would do the following:

  • Establish new campus resources and support services for student survivors: Colleges and universities would be required to designate Sexual Assault Response Coordinators to assist survivors of sexual assault, domestic violence, dating violence, and stalking. Sexual Assault Response Coordinators would coordinate support services and accommodations for survivors, provide information about options for reporting, and provide guidance or assistance – at the direction of the survivor – in reporting the crime to campus authorities and/or law enforcement. Schools would no longer be allowed to sanction students who report sexual violence but reveal a non-violent student conduct violation in good faith, like underage drinking.
  • Require fairness in the campus disciplinary process: All schools would be required to use one uniform process for campus student disciplinary proceedings and would no longer be allowed to have athletic departments or other subgroups handle complaints. Schools would be required to provide written notification to the accused as well as the survivor of any decision to move forward with a campus disciplinary proceeding within 24 hours of that decision. The notice must include details of the complaint, a summary of the disciplinary proceeding, and the rights and due process protections available to both parties.  
  • Ensure minimum training standards for on-campus personnel: This legislation would ensure that everyone from the Sexual Assault Response Coordinators to those responsible for investigating and participating in disciplinary proceedings receives specialized training so that they have a firm understanding of the nature of these crimes and their effect on survivors.
  • Create historic new transparency requirements: For the first time, students at every college and university in America would be surveyed about their experience with sexual violence to get an accurate picture of this problem. This new biennial survey would be standardized and confidential, with the results published online so that parents and high school students could make an informed choice when comparing universities. The Department of Education would also be required to publish the names of all schools with pending investigations, final resolutions, and voluntary resolution agreements related to Title IX with respect to sexual violence and requirements of the Clery Act.
  • Ensure coordination with law enforcement: This legislation would require colleges and universities to enter into memoranda of understanding (MOU) with each local law enforcement agency that has jurisdiction to report to a campus as a first responder. These MOUs would ensure that the school and law enforcement clearly delineate duties and share information so that when a crime occurs, both campus authorities and local authorities can focus on solving the crime rather than debating jurisdiction. 
  • Establish stiffer penalties for violations: Schools that do not comply with certain requirements under the bill may face a penalty of up to 1 percent of the institution’s operating budget. The bill would also increase penalties for Clery Act violations to up to $150,000 per violation, from the current penalty of $35,000 per violation. Financial penalties collected from institutions in violation would be distributed back to campuses through a new competitive grant program, administered by the Secretary of Education, for which colleges and universities can apply for the purpose of researching best practices for preventing and responding to sexual and interpersonal violence on college campuses and sharing such research with peer institutions and the Department of Education.

Sen. Warner has been a lead sponsor of this bill since its original introduction in the 113th Congress.

In addition to Sens. Warner, Gillibrand, and Grassley, other co-sponsors include Sens. Maggie Hassan (D-NH), Joni Ernst (R-IA), Marco Rubio (R-FL), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV), Jack Reed (D-RI), and Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH). 

Text of the bill is available here and a summary is available here.

 

###

WASHINGTON – Today, the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) Investor Advisory Committee called on the Commission to modernize and improve corporate reporting and disclosure of human capital management practices. 

The Investor Advisory Committee recommendations come on the heels of calls by U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA) for accounting principles and reporting requirements to view workforce investments in human capital as assets, rather than costs, in a knowledge-based economy. 

Last July, Sen. Warner, a former business executive and current member of the Senate Banking Committee, pressed the SEC to use its rulemaking authority to require companies to tell shareholders whether and how they are investing in their workforces through human capital management disclosures. The Investor Advisory Committee’s recommendations to the SEC today track closely with the human capital reforms Sen. Warner proposed in his July letter.   

“I’m very encouraged to see the Investor Advisory Committee come to similar conclusions based on the evidence: that the SEC should recognize the significance of human capital management and modernize corporate reporting and disclosure on it. In particular, I’m encouraged to see their recommendations include training per-employee. The recommendations would go a long way to provide investors with the critical information they need  to evaluate whether a company is making the appropriate investments in its workforce to compete in a 21st century economy. Just as there were increasing calls for greater and standardized disclosure of R&D in the 1970’s, there’s growing support for more human capital disclosure for the purpose of long-term economic growth. I hope the SEC responds with quick, meaningful action,” Sen. Warner said today.

Human capital management disclosures provide a snapshot of how U.S. companies compensate, train, retain, and incentivize their employees. Several studies have found that human capital management disclosures are an important predictor of a company’s long-term success in a changing economy. For example, a 2015 McKinsey study found that firms that prioritize learning programs for their employees perform better overall than those that do not. As the Investor Advisory Committee also noted, a recent Harvard report found a positive correlation between disclosed training programs and financial performance. Requiring companies to disclose human capital management indicators would provide investors with a better understanding of a firm’s performance and potential for long-term growth. 

The SEC’s current human capital disclosure requirements are extremely limited, requiring disclosures only of the number of employees, their median compensation, and CEO compensation. In a July letter, Sen. Warner urged the SEC to heed the calls of investors and utilize its rulemaking authority to require companies across the board to provide further details relating to human capital management. Specifically, Sen. Warner encouraged the SEC to revise and modernize Regulation S-K to require public reporting companies to disclose more qualitative and quantitative information regarding human capital. While the SEC would be responsible for developing and finalizing the requirements, human capital disclosures could potentially require firms to make public information about employee education and training programs; workforce demographics; employee turnover; employee compensation; and workforce compensation and incentives.

 

###

 

 

WASHINGTON – U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner (D-VA), Marco Rubio (R-FL) and Ron Wyden (D-OR) today reintroduced legislation to ensure that a wide range of comparative data about higher education programs is more readily available for prospective students and their families. The Student Right to Know Before You Go Act of 2019 will increase access to information about school graduation rates, debt levels, how much graduates can expect to earn, and other education and workforce-related measures of success as they make important decisions about higher education.   

“Choosing a college or university is a major financial decision—it can affect students’ likelihood of graduating, the amount of student loan debt they will incur, and their future earning potential,” said Sen. Warner. “Students and families making such critical decisions have the right to know whether they are making a worthwhile investment, and this legislation will make important information available for those weighing different options.”                        

According to data from the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia (SCHEV), 62 percent of recent Virginia graduates have student loan debt, with an average debt of more than $33,000. With rising educational costs and uncertainty in the job market, students must be able to inform themselves as much as possible before making costly decisions about their futures. However, individuals considering a higher education are often forced to make life-altering financial and educational decisions based on information that is inadequate, inaccurate, or both. Institutional data available through the Department of Education’s College Scorecard is limited, and similar data published by individual states typically looks only at first-time, full-time students or students who remain in the same state after graduating. 

The Student Right to Know Before You Go Act would make available accurate information about college and student outcomes while also prioritizing the privacy of student information. The bill would safeguard student privacy by using secure multiparty computation (MPC), an advanced encryption technique, to generate statistical data based on student information from colleges and universities, as well as loan and income information from government agencies like the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and Department of Education. MPC ensures that no entity has to “give up” sensitive information in a way that is accessible to others. 

Sen. Warner has introduced several bills to improve transparency, accountability, and affordability in higher education, and help borrowers better manage their student loan debts. The Employer Participation in Repayment Act would allow employers to apply pre-tax income to help their employees with student loan payments. The Dynamic Student Loan Repayment Act would make income-based repayment the default option for borrowers. The Go to High School, Go to College Act would give eligible students access to their Pell Grant dollars while enrolled in early college courses. Finally, the Empowering Students Through Enhanced Financial Counseling Act would promote financial literacy by providing students who are recipients of federal financial aid with comprehensive counseling services.

Bill text can be found here. A summary and chart of the bill’s key provisions can be found here. A section-by-section summary of the bill can be found here.

 

###

 

WASHINGTON- U.S. Senators John Cornyn (R-TX), Michael Bennet (D-CO), Tim Scott (R-SC), and Mark Warner (D-VA) today introduced the Teacher and School LEADERS Act, which would reform Teacher Quality Partnership Grants to better support school leaders and allow for greater innovation in educator preparation.

“Strong school leaders can have an outsized impact on the quality of education for our students, especially in high-needs school districts,” Sen. Cornyn said. “It’s important that educators have access to grant programs to further their impact in our local schools, and I’m proud to partner with my colleagues on this legislation.” 

“Teachers and leaders are working tirelessly in schools across the country and deserve the best training and support possible,” said Sen. Bennet. “By investing in more flexible, higher-quality training programs, we can empower educators to grow in their careers and use innovative approaches in the classroom." 

“We can never thank our teachers enough for everything they do for our children, but we can take important steps like the Teacher and School LEADERS Act,” Sen. Scott said. “By ensuring strong support for high-quality teacher and leadership preparation programs, we can help our educators gain even more tools to pass on to the next generation of leaders.” 

“Professional development opportunities allow teachers and school leaders to grow in their careers and become better educators,” said Sen. Warner. “I am proud to join my colleagues in reintroducing legislation that invests in the future of our children by supporting and empowering their educators.” 

The Teacher and School LEADERS Act would reform Title II of the Higher Education Act to expand the Teacher Quality Partnership (TQP) Grant program. Specifically, the bill would: 

  • Expand the program to provide training to educators who aspire to fill leadership roles in high-need schools.
  • Provide grant applicants and recipients greater flexibility over who they can partner with for preparation programs by removing restrictions requiring them to partner with an Institution of Higher Education to qualify. 

Several groups have announced their support of the Teacher and School LEADERS Act, including Educators for Excellence, Knowledge Alliance, Leading Educators, National Center for Learning Disabilities, National Council on Teacher Quality, National Writing Project, New Leaders, National Network of State Teachers of the Year, Teach for America, Teach Plus, Teaching Matters, and Third Way.

 

WASHINGTON – U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner (D-VA) and John Thune (R-SD) introduced legislation to help Americans tackle their student loan debt. The Employer Participation in Repayment Act would allow employers to contribute up to $5,250 tax-free to their employees’ student loans – providing employees with much-needed relief and employers with a unique tool to attract and retain talented employees. 

“As the first in my family to graduate from college, I wouldn’t have been able to afford my college tuition without the help of student loans,” said Sen. Warner. “Unfortunately as the cost of higher education continues to skyrocket, so has the rate of Americans who turn to student loans to pay for college. Today too many Americans are saddled with tough-to-manage student loan debt, with no end in sight. That’s why I’ve teamed up with Sen. Thune to create an innovative, bipartisan approach to help ease the burden of student loans. By making employer student loan repayments tax-exempt, employers will have a new tool to recruit and retain a talented workforce while also helping working Americans manage their financial future.” 

“Today’s economy is strong, and I believe we should keep our foot on the gas by passing common-sense bills like the one Sen. Warner and I have proposed that would give young career seekers additional tools to help overcome the burden of student loan debt and empower employers to attract future talent,” said Sen. Thune. “It’s no secret that as today’s college graduates look toward the next chapter in life, they often trade their cap and gown for debt and uncertainty. This bipartisan legislation, which I view as a win-win for graduates and employers, is good policy and one that I hope garners strong support.” 

According to reports, one in four Americans have student loans, and student debt in the U.S. reached $1.5 trillion in 2018. Student debt is a significant financial burden that not only influences the way our workforce saves and spends, but also has a stifling effect on the economy. The Warner-Thune bill would update an existing federal program so that it works better for employees living with the reality of burdensome student loan debt. The Employer Education Assistance Program, as currently written, only provides assistance for workers who are seeking additional education. It does not extend to individuals who have already incurred student loan debt during their undergraduate or graduate studies. 

Additional cosponsors of the bill include U.S. Sens. Angus King (I-ME), Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV), Ed Markey (D-MA), Pat Roberts (R-KS), Chris Murphy (D-CT), John Hoeven (R-ND), Doug Jones (D-AL), Mike Rounds (R-SD), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Susan Collins (R-ME), Jon Tester (D-MT), Roy Blunt (R-MO), Maggie Hassan (D-NH), Todd Young (R-IN), Jacky Rosen (D-NV), Cory Gardner (R-CO) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ).

The legislation has also been introduced in the House of Representatives by Reps. Scott Peters (D-CA) and Rodney Davis (R-IL) and has support from numerous educational organizations.  

“Too many individuals and families are being hindered by the financial burden of their post-secondary education.  Student borrowers deserve access to a broad range of repayment options and loan forgiveness programs that address their variety of needs,”said Marc Egan, Director of Government Relations, National Education Association (NEA). “The NEA is proud to support Congressmen Scott Peters, Rodney Davis, Senators Mark Warner, and John Thune in creating new pathways for individuals to repay their student loans to make college more affordable and accessible for all.”

“The National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities fully supports The Employer Participation in Student Loan Assistance Act of 2019 and Reps. Peters and Davis’s efforts to expand IRC Sec. 127 to allow employers to offer both tuition and loan repayment assistance to their employees.  Incentives like Sec. 127 encourage employers to invest in the education and training of employees at all levels, which ultimately benefits society and the economy.  Expanding this benefit to allow employees to also use this tax-free assistance for student loan repayment helps the employees at two vital stages of financing their education.  Improving this benefit will encourage more employer and employee participation, and result in a more educated and skilled workforce across the U.S,” said Dr. David L. Warren, President, National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities (NAICU).

“The National Association of College and University Business Officers (NACUBO) commends Sen. Mark Warner and Rep. Scott Peters for introducing the Employer Participation in Repayment Act. The benefits currently offered by Section 127 of the tax code are an important tool for employers to attract the best possible employees and build a skilled workforce. While Section 127 is currently a valuable tool in supporting U.S. competitiveness it could, upon passage of the Employer Participation in Repayment Act, become the benefit of choice for tuition assistance and loan repayments among employers. Expansion of Section 127 would benefit employers, employees, students, and families, and help both institutions of higher learning and the U.S. workforce retain a top spot on the global stage,” said Susan Whealler Johnston, PhD, President and CEO, National Association of College and University Business Officers (NACUBO).

“The enhanced ability for employers to contribute to student loan repayment represents an important opportunity to reduce student debt levels. We commend Senator Warner and Representative Peters for looking into this issue, as it may assist many community college students who borrow to pay for the cost of attendance of postsecondary education,” said J. Noah Brown, President & CEO, Association of Community College Trustees.

“Students shouldn't be forced to look toward a future of being stuck in debt, especially when we have so much to offer the workforce and the world. As the cost of a college education continues to rise, it is increasingly vital that students have access to programs and resources to assist in loan repayment and forgiveness. The Association of Big Ten Students supports the efforts of Congressmen Rodney Davis and Scott Peters and Senators John Thune and Mark Warner in making a debt-free life more accessible for all and encourages the implementation of programs to reduce student loan debt across the country,” said Sarah Henry, Director of Legislative Affairs, The Association of Big Ten Students.

“In today’s competitive job market, leading-edge benefits are the most powerful tool employers can wield to attract and retain talented workers. At SHRM, we advocate for efforts that create better workplaces and a better world. We strongly support The Employer Participation in Repayment Act, and I applaud Representatives Peters and Davis, and Senators Warner and Thune for their bold leadership on this critical issue. Expanding employer education assistance helps address the skills gap, which is holding back both workers and employers. When employers are able to help workers pay off student debt, more people will have confidence to pursue higher education and be better prepared to fill high-skilled fields,” said Johnny C. Taylor, Jr., SHRM-SCP, President and Chief Executive Officer, Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM).

Full text of the legislation can be found here. A summary of the legislation can be found here.

 

###

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senators Tim Kaine and Mark Warner led a letter with 26 colleagues calling on Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos to improve guidance the Department of Education is giving to student loan borrowers impacted by the shutdown. In the letter, the Senators cited concerns that guidance the Department is currently giving borrowers does not help them navigate repayment options effectively and may cause borrowers to experience further difficulties navigating student loan forgiveness, leading to financially unwise decisions.

“Among the 800,000 federal workers that are furloughed, or working without pay, are thousands of student loan borrowers,” the Senators wrote. “We urge you to improve advice that the Department is providing to impacted student loan borrowers, immediately conduct proactive outreach to borrowers, prioritize requests for student loan assistance from all federal workers, and explore other ways to assist impacted student loan borrowers.”

“Federal workers who serve their country deserve a federal student loan program that supports their needs during this time. We urge you to deploy the resources of your Department to provide the assistance we have requested as soon as possible,” the Senators concluded. 

Joining Kaine and Warner on the letter are Senators Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Patty Murray (D-WA), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Tina Smith (D-MN), Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Kamala Harris (D-CA), Cory Booker (D-NJ), Dick Durbin (D-IL), Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Edward Markey (D-MA), Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), Maggie Hassan (D-NH), Michael Bennet (D-CO), Ron Wyden (D-OR), Chris Murphy (D-CT), Brian Schatz (D-HI), Ben Cardin (D-MD), Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), and Robert Menendez (D-NJ).                                                            

The full text of the letter is available here and below:

 

January 25, 2019

 

The Honorable Betsy DeVos

Secretary of Education

U.S. Department of Education

400 Maryland Avenue, S.W.

Washington, DC 20202

 

Dear Secretary DeVos:

 

We write to you on behalf of the federal workers and their families affected by President Trump and Congressional Republicans’ inexcusable and harmful government shutdown. Among the 800,000 federal workers that are furloughed, or working without pay, are thousands of student loan borrowers. Many of these borrowers and their families are struggling to make rent and mortgage payments, pay for child care and medical treatment, afford food, and meet other basic needs—all while their student loan bills come due. Committed public servants who have federal student loans deserve better assistance from the U.S. Department of Education (“Department”) during the shutdown. We urge you to improve advice that the Department is providing to impacted student loan borrowers, immediately conduct proactive outreach to borrowers, prioritize requests for student loan assistance from all federal workers, and explore other ways to assist impacted student loan borrowers.

 

We recognize and appreciate that the Department recently attempted to increase awareness about repayment options for federal workers in a January 11, 2019, blog post which directs impacted federal student loan borrowers to seek loan forbearance or deferment, or enroll in—or recertify income early for—an income-driven repayment (IDR) plan.[1] As the blog post mentions, interest on a loan in deferment or forbearance will accrue and such interest may capitalize if left unpaid, which results in more debt for borrowers in the long-run. However, we are concerned that the Department’s advice to borrowers does not help them effectively navigate their options, may cause them to experience further difficulties navigating student loan forgiveness, and could lead to financially unwise decisions.

 

The Department’s advice only briefly describes a few options without helping borrowers make fully informed choices or proceed to obtain relief. For example, while the blog post mentions Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) and correctly notes that periods of deferment or forbearance do not count towards the 120 qualifying payments for forgiveness, the post does not help impacted student loan borrowers determine whether the trade-off between the administrative ease of deferment or forbearance is better than the more involved process of entering—or recertifying income for—an income-driven repayment plan. The blog post also fails to discuss tradeoffs between deferment and forbearance, including the option for interest subsidies under deferment. Especially in an era when irresponsible government shutdowns are increasingly frequent, the Department should develop a fact sheet or guidance document for its website, loan servicers, and borrowers that helps affected borrowers decide which type of benefit to pursue, directs them on how to apply for and receive such benefits, and lists the administrative steps to improve relief that we are requesting and that the Department has agreed to.

 

IDR is a beneficial option for many borrowers, and particularly for federal workers interested in PSLF. These repayment plans can provide federal workers who are student loan borrowers, and who are furloughed or working without pay, with a $0 “payment” amount, interest subsidies, and a lower risk of substantial interest capitalization. Borrowers who enroll in IDR may be entitled to a subsidized interest rate effective the moment their enrollment is processed. Borrowers with subsidized student loans are allowed up to three years of interest subsidy if their student loan payment under any IDR plan is insufficient to cover accruing interest charges—a certainty for borrowers with a $0 payment. In addition to this benefit, borrowers with unsubsidized student loans are entitled to have 50 percent of unpaid interest charges waived if they enrolled in the IDR plan known as “Revised Pay As You Earn” (REPAYE), a substantial benefit that is unavailable to borrowers under any other payment arrangement.

 

Revising IDR payment amounts to $0, along with interest subsidies, is certainly a more beneficial option than deferment or forbearance for all federal workers who are already seeking PSLF and who are now not currently receiving any income. Additionally, enrollment in IDR is not time-limited, unlike the three year limitation on deferment. Since eligible borrowers already have the opportunity to qualify for short-term interest subsidies in IDR, and they run the risk of forgoing qualifying payments for PSLF and accruing interest at the end of deferment or forbearance, we ask that the Department ensure the guidance we are requesting more fairly and prominently discusses the benefits of IDR compared to deferment or forbearance. And for borrowers who miss payments or end up in deferment or forbearance during the shutdown, the Department should use its settlement and compromise authority to waive all interest that accrues on these loans during the shutdown.[2]

 

One reason that some borrowers are reluctant to pursue IDR as a temporary relief option, despite its potential benefit, is the Department’s extended processing time that occurs with contracted federal student loan servicers. However, IDR applications need not take weeks to process—and this customer service level is fully within the Department’s control. This is especially the case for furloughed federal workers or those working without pay, who have the option to self-certify that they are not currently receiving any income, which would result in a $0 monthly payment amount. The Department can and must ask its contracted servicers to process IDR applications from federal workers, including any adjustments of payment amounts from existing IDR borrowers, on a timeline of days—not weeks or months. For example, the Department should direct its contractors to prioritize all applications for borrowers whose applications are easier to process because they applied online and have self-certified that they have no income.

 

We also ask that the Department do everything in its power to reach out directly to borrowers who, due to the submission of a PSLF form or enrollment in a federal loan repayment assistance program, have a record of federal employment. Such outreach should include emailing, calling, and texting every borrower employed in federal service to ensure that they are aware of their repayment options and the ability to receive a $0 payment under IDR. The Department should also explore the possibility of a secure data match to identify other federal workers with federal student loans who are not in the PSLF program. Such outreach could be easily paid for with funds set aside for outreach about PSLF in the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2018, as well as the Department of Education Appropriations Act, 2019. Finally, the Department should issue a change request to student loan servicers that covers IDR processing times, training for customer service agents to respond to all inquiries and requests from impacted student loan borrowers, and instruction to conduct the necessary outreach to affected borrowers.

 

Despite President Trump and Congressional Republicans’ decision to continue this unnecessary government shutdown, federal workers should not bear the consequences of their obstinance and irresponsibility. In this case, there is a clear path to allow federal workers who are temporarily without income to pay nothing toward their loans under IDR. Federal workers who serve their country deserve a federal student loan program that supports their needs during this time. We urge you to deploy the resources of your Department to provide the assistance we have requested as soon as possible.

 

Sincerely,

 

###

 

 




[1] U.S. Department of Education, Home Room, the Official Blog of the [1] U.S. Department of Education. January 11, 2019. https://blog.ed.gov/2019/01/federal-employees-manage-student-loans-government-shutdown/

[2] 20 U.S.C. § 1082(a)(6); 34 C.F.R. § 30.70

WASHINGTON, D.C. - Today, U.S. Senators Mark Warner and Tim Kaine announced $16,557,883 million in federal grant funding through the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) for Head Start programs throughout Virginia.

“We’re pleased to announce funding through the Head Start program to support young children across Virginia,” the Senators said. “The Head Start program is important to ensuring that schools and organizations have the resources they need to support early childhood development.”

The following organizations will receive funding: 

·         Lynchburg Community Action Group Inc. will receive $3,344,772.

·         Eastern Shore AAA/CAA in Exmore will receive $1,932,019.

·         People Incorporated of Virginia in Abingdon will receive $4,449,701.

·         Buchanan County Head Start in Grundy will receive $1,463,253.

·         Clinch Valley Community Action, Inc. in Tazewell will receive $1,665,748.

·         Augusta County School Board in Verona will receive $2,257,832.

·         Lee County School District in Jonesville will receive $1,444,558.

 

As Governors and Senators, Warner and Kaine have advocated for investments in early childhood education. Head Start programs promote school readiness for children under 5 years old from low-income families through health, education, family support, and social services.

###

 

 

WASHINGTON — U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA) released the below statement on the Trump Administration’s proposal to rewrite U.S. Department of Education guidelines regarding schools’ handling of allegations of sexual assault and harassment:

“I have repeatedly expressed concerns about the Trump Administration’s approach to this serious issue and said that any new process should prioritize the needs of survivors. That remains my position. I will be examining the Department’s proposal and consulting with experts to determine whether it would undermine the progress that campus sexual assault survivors and advocates have achieved in recent years,” said Sen. Warner. “The Department’s seemingly narrow interpretation of schools’ obligations to students is further reason for Congress to advance bipartisan legislation that better protects students and sets clear responsibilities for institutions handling allegations of campus sexual assault.” 

Sexual assault on college campuses remains a pervasive issue. Under Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, colleges and universities have a legal obligation to provide an environment that is free from discrimination on the basis of sex in all education programs and activities. Sexual harassment and sexual violence are forms of sex discrimination prohibited under Title IX. Sexual assault on college and university campuses is notoriously underreported and, too often, adjudication processes and survivor support services vary from campus to campus, making fairness and transparency all the more elusive. 

Sen. Warner is an original cosponsor of the Campus Accountability and Safety Act, which would establish higher incentives on all universities, including those in Virginia, to empower student survivors and hold perpetrators accountable. The bill was supported by more than one-third of the U.S. Senate in the 114th Congress.

In September 2017, Sen. Warner called the Trump Administration’s decision to review previous guidelines on campus sexual assault a “red flag” and called for Secretary DeVos to prioritize the interests of sexual assault survivors in the rulemaking process.

 

###

 

WASHINGTON – Today U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner (D-VA) and Chris Coons (D-DE) announced that they will introduce legislation to make lifelong learning more accessible for low- and moderate-income workers. TheLifelong Learning and Training Account Act would establish a tax-preferred savings account with a generous government match to assist workers seeking to retrain or upskill over the course of their careers. 

In the coming years, more workers will be required to learn new skills throughout their careers. According to the McKinsey Global Institute, up to one-third of the U.S. workforce will need to learn new skills or find work in new occupations by 2030 due to automation. As a result, American workers are increasingly likely to hold many different jobs over the course of their careers, and in many cases technology will transform the skills they need and even the types of jobs available. The Lifelong Learning and Training Account Act would provide workers with a portable, government-matched savings vehicle for lifelong learning.

“Lifelong learning is quickly becoming a necessity for American workers. We need to make sure Americans are able to retrain and upskill throughout their career, so they can thrive in the modern economy,” said Sen. Warner. “This will not happen on its own. It requires a serious investment to help workers pay for the education and training necessary to modernize their skills—by employees, by employers, and by the government. The Lifelong Learning and Training Account Act represents that serious investment.”

“The digital, fast-changing nature of today’s economy has significant consequences for workers. More than ever before, individuals will need to acquire new skills over the course of their careers,” said Sen. Coons. “TheLifelong Learning and Training Account Act empowers workers, with help from government and employers, to take charge of their future by actively planning, saving for, and completing the training programs they need to thrive in this economy.”

“Although national unemployment is at historic lows, small business owners are still struggling to find the workers they need due to a skills gap,” said John Arensmeyer, Founder & CEO of Small Business Majority. “In fact, Small Business Majority's scientific opinion polling found more than one-third of small employers said it is difficult to find candidates with the right education, skills or training. Since small firms rarely have enough time to dedicate to extensive staff training or sufficient funds to pay for employee education, the Lifelong Learning and Training Account Act would be a huge boost to small businesses by offering them another way to invest in the development of their staff. This legislation would also help solo entrepreneurs invest in their own development and acquire skills without the aid of an employer.” 

“In an economy where more than 80 percent of all jobs require some form of education and training beyond high school, it is more important than ever for workers to be able to access the skills and credentials that can help them advance their careers,“ said Kermit Kaleba, Federal Policy Director of the National Skills Coalition.“The Lifelong Learning and Training Account Act would provide workers with a critical tool to take advantage of emerging educational opportunities so they can keep pace with a rapidly changing labor market. We applaud Senator Warner’s continued leadership on this issue, and we look forward to working with the Senator to ensure passage of the Lifetime Learning and Training Account Act.” 

“Education and training shouldn’t stop after high school or college. We need to provide workers with new opportunities to add or update skills throughout their careers,“ said Alastair Fitzpayne, Executive Director of the Aspen Institute’s Future of Work Initiative said. “Creating a culture of lifelong learning is critical to building a skilled and resilient workforce. By incentivizing workers, businesses, and government to co-invest in education and skills training, Lifelong Learning & Training Accounts will help workers continue to develop skills and better manage their economic future.” 

The Lifelong Learning and Training Account Act creates employee-owned Lifelong Learning and Training Account (LLTA) savings plans. Contributions to an LLTA by low- and moderate-income workers or their employers are eligible for a dollar-for-dollar federal match of up to $1,000. The federal matching funds are directly deposited into the LLTA immediately after the contribution by the worker or employer. The worker then gets to choose how to use the LLTA funds, which can be applied towards any training that leads to a recognized post-secondary credential.

For workers that need to contribute to the cost of updating their job skills, this significant federal investment can make a huge difference in whether or not these workers seek additional training. If employers are willing to match employees’ savings, the returns can be even greater—a $500 contribution by a worker would create $2,000 in training opportunities (a $500 match by the employer, and then a $1,000 match from the federal government.) The accounts are portable from job to job, and always under the workers’ control.

Contributions by workers and employers are after-tax dollars, but face no additional taxes on earnings if the LLTA funds are used for qualified training expenses. Eligibility is for workers age 25 to 60, with incomes of up to $82,000 per worker. States will manage the accounts. Accounts are designed to encourage the worker to use the funds to regularly update their skills, rather than build up large balances over many years. Restrictions are put in place to ensure that the government’s matching dollars go only to qualified training expenses.

The full text of the bill can be found here. The bill will be officially introduced when the Senate returns after Thanksgiving.

 

###

 

WASHINGTON— U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine (both D-VA) joined a group of more than 150 House and Senate Democrats in requesting U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos turn over more information regarding the Department’s flawed handling of the Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) program. The program helps certain government or non-profit full-time employees receive loan forgiveness for the remaining balance of their federal student loans. The request follows the release of a new Government Accountability Office (GAO) report which revealed an alarming number of PSLF borrowers have been denied loan forgiveness. The report also showed the Department has neglected to provide clear guidance and instructions to loan servicers. This failure at the Department has left servicers and borrowers in the dark about which employers qualify and without detailed, accurate information regarding their loan payments.

“Consumer advocates, state regulators, Members of Congress, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), and GAO have all repeatedly raised alarms about the Department’s handling of the PSLF program,” the Members wrote. “Not only has this Administration ignored the mounting warning signs… but it has actively reduced oversight of student loan servicers—thereby contributing to the current problems in student loan servicing.”

Additionally, official Department data recently showed that a shocking 99.6 percent of borrowers applying for PSLF have thus far been denied. Previous requests to Secretary DeVos to improve PSLF have been ignored, and the Administration has even proposed eliminating the critical loan forgiveness program entirely.

Members also requested a timeline for implementing each GAO recommendation, a copy of the Department’s corrective action plan, and further details about the Department’s plan to reach out to all Direct Loan borrowers about PSLF and to fully digitize the employment certification and application process. It is critical that Congress have this information as authorizers of the program and to make any potential legislative corrections. Sens. Warner and Kaine have both pressed the Department for increased clarity and consistency for PSLF borrowers, including in the April 2017 letter found here.

“We are deeply troubled that millions of dedicated public servants may not obtain the loan forgiveness that they deserve if the Department does not act quickly to correct program implementation issues,” the Members added.

Sen. Warner has introduced several bipartisan bills to improve transparency, accountability and affordability in higher education, and help borrowers better manage their student loan debts. The Dynamic Student Loan Repayment Act would make income-based repayment the default option for borrowers. The Employer Participation in Repayment Act would allow employers to apply pre-tax income to help their employees with student loan payments. Finally, the Empowering Students Through Enhanced Financial Counseling Act would promote financial literacy by providing students who are recipients of federal financial aid with comprehensive counseling services.

Sen. Kaine has led efforts to fix a glitch in the PSLF program that left some public servants facing mountains of unexpected debt because they had unknowingly been in the wrong repayment plan. In March, Congress passed Kaine’s legislation to allow those public servants to apply for the loan relief they had earned. The Trump Administration is responsible for administering the loan relief through the Temporary Expanded Public Service Loan Forgiveness (TEPSLF) Program, but so far the Department of Education has created unnecessary hurdles for borrowers and rejected 88.4 percent of applicants. Kaine has pressed Secretary DeVos to turn things around by creating a simple process that gives fair consideration to the teachers, military personnel, law enforcement officers, and other public servants who apply for this debt relief.

To read the full text of their latest letter, click here. To read more about the GAO report entitled, “Public Service Loan Forgiveness: Education Needs to Provide Better Information for Loan Service and Borrowers,” click here. A summary of key findings can be found here. 

###

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senators Mark Warner and Tim Kaine announced $2,425,864 in federal funding will be awarded to Virginia Commonwealth University through the U.S. Department of Education’s Teacher and Leader Preparation and Professional Development Grant Program. Warner and Kaine had written in support of VCU receiving the funding, which will be used to recruit, prepare, license, and retain teachers in high-need school districts as well as strengthen the teaching of mathematics and science.

“Teacher shortages have plagued schools in Richmond and across Virginia, but it’s a problem we can solve. We’re thrilled VCU has shown a commitment to this important endeavor through partnerships with high-need school districts and we believe this funding will assist them in helping the entire community,” the Senators said.

Warner and Kaine each wrote to the U. S. Department of Education in support of Virginia Commonwealth University’s application for federal grant funding.

Teacher shortages have affected students across Virginia.  In July, Kaine introduced the Preparing and Retaining Education Professionals (PREP) Act to address teacher and principal shortages in underserved communities and ensure that there are enough teachers and principals with the right skills and tools to educate students and prepare them for the future. Warner has also introduced the bipartisan Teacher and School Leaders need Education and Development to be Empowered Resources in Schools (LEADER) Act to improve and support programs that recruit, select, and train educators who aspire to fill leadership roles in high-need schools.

 

###