Special APM Edition
Student Aid/Public Service Loan Forgiveness
Student aid programs such as Pell Grants, Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grants, and other student aid programs are vital to ensuring access to higher education for social work students. The Public Service Loan Forgiveness program will allow more students to pursue the profession and achieve important financial milestones in their own lives. Learn more about how you can advocate for student aid and the PSLF program here.
Gun Violence and School Safety
There is a need to expand access to mental and behavioral health supports in schools and communities. CSWE believes that federal policy should make addressing gun violence a public health initiative. This means utilizing research and evidence-based prevention and intervention strategies to improve health, safety, and life expectancy. Learn more about how you can advocate for addressing gun violence and school safety here.
Congress needs to act quickly on necessary legislative action and protection for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program recipients and other immigrants without permanent status. Additionally, continued oversight of other immigration issues, including family separation and asylum petitions, is needed to ensure child welfare and social justice. Learn more about how you can advocate for addressing immigration issues here.
Voting Is Social Work is a campaign to integrate voter engagement into social work education and practice. The National Social Work Voter Mobilization Campaign encourages all social work students, faculty members, and organizations to engage and empower voters in their communities. The campaign also urges the social work community to include nonpartisan voter registration, education, and outreach as part of their professional responsibilities and practice. Visit the Voter Mobilization Campaign website to access resources.
On September 26 the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE), Society for Social Work and Research, Center for Health and Social Care Integration (CHaSCI), and Boston University Center for Innovation in Social Work & Health held a congressional briefing on Capitol Hill titled “Integrating Social Determinants of Health Into Future Health Care Policy.” Longtime congressional social work champions Rep. Karen Bass (D-CA) and the Congressional Social Work Caucus co-hosted the event. The briefing built on the new report by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, “Integrating Social Care Into the Delivery of Health Care: Moving Upstream to Improve the Nation’s Health.” The panel further explored evidence tied to addressing social determinants and health outcomes, examined current federal activities, and provided new ideas for future policy solutions. The panel was moderated by CSWE President and CEO Dr. Darla Spence Coffey, and panelists included Kathy Stack, former deputy associate director for education, income maintenance and labor, White House Office of Management and Budget; Robyn Golden, co-director of CHaSCI and associate vice president of population health and aging at Rush University Medical Center; and Laudan Aron, senior fellow for the Center on Labor, Human Services, and Population at the Urban Institute.
On September 30 a group of students from Southern Adventist University’s School of Social Work met with the CSWE Public Policy Initiative (PPI) team at Lewis-Burke. The group discussed topics of importance to social work including Public Service Loan Forgiveness, the Higher Education Act reauthorization, social determinants of health, and school safety and gun violence. The PPI team at Lewis-Burke also helped prepare the students for their advocacy day on Capitol Hill by reviewing the legislation in which the student groups expressed interest and the congressional offices they were scheduled to meet with.
On September 26, U.S. Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee Chairman Lamar Alexander (R-TN) introduced S. 2557, the Student Aid Improvement Act of 2019. The bill was introduced in response to legislation that sought to extend expiring funding for minority-serving institutions, which had previously passed the U.S. House of Representatives. Senator Alexander's legislation is largely based on bipartisan bills primarily addressing the Pell Grant program and the Free Application for Federal Student Aid. Senator Alexander's efforts can be seen as an effort to jumpstart Higher Education Act (HEA) reauthorization negotiations with his Democratic counterpart, HELP Committee Ranking Member Patty Murray (D-WA). Those negotiations have stalled over policy disagreements related to campus safety and Senator Murray's insistence on a comprehensive reauthorization of HEA. Because the legislation is not a comprehensive reauthorization, it is unlikely to gain support from Senate Democrats.
Senator Alexander has also indicated interest in incorporating additional legislation, including the College Transparency Act, which would create a student unit record system that would include programmatic-level outcomes for programs of study at institutions of higher education. It is also expected that U.S. House Education and Labor Committee Chairman Bobby Scott (D-VA) will introduce a comprehensive HEA reauthorization bill largely based on his Aim Higher legislation from the 115th Congress in October, which will likely only receive support from House Democrats. Given the move toward partisan HEA bills in each chamber, a reauthorization of HEA during this current Congress is unlikely at this time.
On September 18 the Senate Committee on Appropriations released its recommendation for the fiscal year (FY) 2020 appropriations for the Departments of Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education, and related agencies (LHHS). The bill would provide $178.3 billion in funding for health care, education, and workforce development, which is a slight increase above the $178.1 billion allocated in FY 2019. Highlights from the bill are below. Although it is still uncertain whether the Committee will mark up the LHHS bill given current partisan divisions, the bill will probably serve as a marker for eventual negotiations with the House. Disagreements over several policy provisions are injecting uncertainty into how this and other appropriations bills will be considered.
• The bill would raise the maximum Pell grant award to $6,330 from $6,195 for award year 2020–2021.
• The bill would provide level funding for Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grants, the Federal Work-Study program, TRIO programs, GEAR UP program, and the Graduate Assistance in Areas of National Need program.
• The committee’s bill would provide $42.08 billion to the National Institutes of Health, which is an increase of $3 billion above the FY 2019 level.
• The committee’s bill would provide about $385 million for Title VII workforce programs at the Health Resources and Services Administration, keeping most programs relatively level funded. The Senate would also provide $5 million for a new Substance Use Disorder Workforce Training Demonstration Program, which was authorized in the 21st Century Cures Act but has not yet been funded.
The House Education and Labor Committee held a September hearing on the Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) program. The hearing, "Broken Promises: Examining the Failed Implementation of the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program," focused on difficulties borrowers have had accessing the program and the Department of Education's (ED) implementation. Hearing witness Melissa Emery-Arras, director of education, workforce, and income security at the Government Accountability Office (GAO), noted shortcomings in the PSLF program information ED provides to loan servicers. She also noted that GAO recommends that the Temporary Expanded Public Service Loan Forgiveness and the PSLF program be combined to make it easier for borrowers to access.
The U.S. House Ways and Means Oversight Subcommittee recently held a hearing titled “The Public Health Consequences and Costs of Gun Violence.” Members of Congress and witnesses discussed various issues, including the need for federal research funds to study gun violence, the impact of trauma on gun violence survivors and their loved ones, background checks, suicide, and the need for a comprehensive approach to fight gun violence. Dr. David Satcher, founding director and senior advisor of the Satcher Health Leadership Institute at the Morehouse School of Medicine, former surgeon general of the United States, and former director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, emphasized the need for federally funded research into gun violence, stating, “It would be hard to see something more important for a government focused on public health to study.” CSWE’s principles on the role of social work education in school safety and gun violence prevention can be found here.
At the September meeting of the National Institutes of Health’s (NIH) National Advisory Mental Health Council (NAMHC), which advises the National Institutes of Mental Health (NIMH), Director Josh Gordon spoke about efforts to update NIMH’s strategic plan. A draft of the new strategic plan was shared with the committee but not publicly thus far. The committee was given the opportunity to provide feedback on the overview and each of the five goals at the meeting.
One committee member articulated the point the Public Policy Initiative (PPI) has made to Congressional committee staff regarding the current plan’s lack of prioritization of prevention, resilience, psychosocial complexity, and environmental factors. The NAMHC member also recommended NIMH partner with the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD), which has been another point of PPI concern because there is a general lack of coordination and a resulting gap in NIH’s focus on children’s mental health and illness. The NICHD released its own strategic plan in September, and it also has no significant focus on children’s mental health or mental illness.
The NIMH will take the comments made by the committee into consideration and release a revised version of the strategic plan for public comment later this fall.
Access advocacy materials on student aid, Public Service Loan Forgiveness, gun violence, school safety, immigration, and voter mobilization on the CSWE Public Policy Initiative news page.