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Presses Department of Education nominee on positions regarding financial aid, pre-K 

WASHINGTON – During a hearing of the Senate committee that oversees education, U.S. Senator Johnny Isakson, R-Ga., questioned Betsy DeVos, President-elect Donald Trump’s nominee for U.S. secretary of education, regarding her positions on reducing burdensome regulations that make higher education more costly and less attainable for students. Isakson also asked DeVos about her views on the role of public-private pre-Kindergarten partnerships as an important part of public education in the United States.

At the U.S. Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions hearing on Tuesday, Isakson brought to DeVos’ attention 59 regulations identified as overly burdensome to higher education by the Task Force on Government Regulation. He inquired as to her plans to assist in reducing these burdens and specifically mentioned legislation he has previously introduced to simplify the federal financial aid process, called the Financial Aid Simplification and Transparency Act.

Several institutions of higher education in Georgia, including Georgia Institute of Technology, Emory University and the University of Georgia, have also supported a study, which would help reduce overly burdensome regulations and requirements in higher education, several of which the Secretary can implement unilaterally.

“Would you commit to working with our office to advance the recommendations of the task force on higher education?” Isakson pressed.

DeVos agreed, “I don’t think we should make it any more difficult than absolutely necessary for students to be able to further their education.” She further indicated that she would look forward to implementing this measure among other regulations at the U.S. Department of Education to help students and institutions of learning.

Isakson also inquired of DeVos her thoughts on pre-Kindergarten programs. Isakson used as an example Georgia’s positive public-private and faith-based partnership that aids in the state’s successful pre-K programming.

Isakson praised DeVos’ understanding that yesterday’s “non-traditional” student today makes up a large portion of students in both undergraduate and higher education today.

“The nontraditional student of 25 years ago, has become the traditional student of today. Not every kid lives in an academically enriched environment, and we have to be able to [educate] our kids to do the jobs of the 21st century in different ways all the time,” said Isakson, who also serves as chairman of the labor and workforce subcommittee.

The Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee will vote on confirmation of DeVos as secretary of the U.S. Department of Education in the coming weeks.

Background

In 2015, Isakson introduced the bipartisan Financial Aid Simplification and Transparency Act, or FAST Act, which would transform the federal process of applying for and receiving federal financial aid to attend college, to allow year-round use of Pell Grants, to discourage over-borrowing and simplify repayments.

The bill would reduce the questions some 20 million Americans must answer to apply for federal financial aid down to a single postcard—called the “Student Aid Short Form”—and would inform high school students in their junior year of the amount they’ll receive in federal aid to help pay for college.

It would also address the problem of some students taking on too much debt by limiting the amount a student can borrow based on enrollment. The Financial Aid Simplification and Transparency Act would also simplify the options students have to repay their federal loans and streamline federal grant and loan programs to better serve more students more effectively.

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