Improving education

Dear Friend,

As a UC Irvine professor, I’ve witnessed firsthand how the escalating student-debt crisis and the rising sticker price of college affect students in our district. I went to Washington ready to engage in discussions on the barriers facing those who want to pursue higher education and to present concrete solutions to remove those roadblocks.

Last week, I led 42 colleagues in another oversight effort to hold Education Secretary Betsy DeVos accountable. Under her leadership, the Department of Education is turning down 99% of Public Service Loan Forgiveness applications. I wrote Secretary DeVos a letter with Chairman Gerry Connolly, who heads the Oversight Subcommittee on Government Operations and has specific jurisdiction to monitor program implementation at the agencies. We’ve requested detailed, additional information that we believe will be helpful in getting to the bottom of this ludicrous denial rate. Graduates who devote their careers to public service have earned loan forgiveness under this program and deserve a fair process.

I am also helping to lead a bill with my California colleague Mike Levin that would allow employees of non-partisan Veterans Service Organizations to qualify for the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program. It’s simple: working hard to help our veterans access their benefits is public service that we should honor.

I met with student veterans and support staff at the Veterans Services Center at Irvine Valley College.

Since coming to Congress, I’ve heard from students in our district about what’s on their minds. Over the summer, I visited Irvine Valley College and toured their new Veterans Services Center, hearing directly from student veterans about what they need to succeed. This spring, I hosted townhalls at UC Irvine and Concordia University to collect input from students, faculty, and administrators. At the beginning of the year, when I learned of financial aid issues at Western State Law School, I met with students who were struggling and sent a letter to Secretary DeVos on their behalf. 

Partly in response to concerns I heard from students, I introduced the CFPB Student Loan Integrity & Transparency Act of 2019, a bill to increase oversight of the top federal official in charge of protecting students struggling to repay their loans. I worked with several colleagues on legislation to make permanent a student loan forgiveness program for borrowers who were defrauded or misled by their schools. When Secretary DeVos threatened to withhold financial aid from 80,000 students in California, I led a group of my California colleagues to fight back. Following my oversight, she backed down, ensuring these students received the financial assistance that they were promised. 

To help us tackle long-term problems facing higher education, I co-founded the College Affordability Caucus. This group brings together House lawmakers to identify policies to make college more affordable and accessible. It’s important that we tackle the problems facing students right now and that we implement policies to prevent debt problems that will burden students and families for decades if we do not lower the price of college.

Zot zot zot! I snapped this picture with UCI students after a townhall.

We are fortunate to have top-notch institutions right in our backyard. Many of today’s college students in Orange County will go on to shape the future of our community—taking jobs, purchasing homes, and establishing roots in our neighborhoods well after they get their degrees. By working hard to find solutions for our college students today, we are creating a better Orange County tomorrow.

          Very truly yours,
          Representative Katie Porter
          Member of Congress