Students of Fresno City College could face more obstacles to financial aid under the Prosper Act, according to Paul Parnell, State Center Community College District chancellor. Photo by Donald A. Promnitz

published on July 6, 2018 - 1:54 PM
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Officials from the State Center Community College District are expressing concerns about a federal program that could completely reform the American higher education system.

Sponsored by Rep. Virginia Foxx (R-NC), H.R. 4508, the Promoting Real Opportunity, Success, and Prosperity through Education Reform (PROSPER) Act seeks to reauthorize and fix issues with the Higher Education Act of 1965. In an article for the Independent Journal Review, Foxx wrote that the Act was initially billed as a reliable path out of poverty, but has since become corrupted.

This corruption, she argued, has resulted in “six types of feral student loans, nine repayment plans, eight forgiveness programs, 32 deferment and forbearance options, higher tuition rates, longer completion times,” along with student debt totaling nearly $1 trillion and a workforce vacancy of 6 million people.

The goal of the act is to reform financial assistance for students and bolster the workforce in the United States. The bill seeks to accomplish this by streamlining student aid, along with promoting innovation and completion, and “empowering students and families to make informed decisions.”

However, SCCCD Chancellor Paul Parnell, Ph.D, is skeptical about the PROSPER Act, saying this it will do more to hinder students in his district than help them.

“In our opinion, this legislation hurts our students, hurts their ability to get federal aid [and] federal loan subsidies,” he said. “Especially us as a minority-serving institution.”

According to the chancellor, the PROSPER Act fails to renew mandatory funding which expires next year. This would lead to a $255-million loss for promoting minority-STEM education.

Under the PROSPER Act, Parnell said he is worried that with the elimination of oversight, it will be made easier for lenders to offer students programs that will only serve to widen their debt. Loan forgiveness would also be lost for students achieving careers as service employees — this includes police, nurses and firefighters.

According to Lucy Ruiz, executive director of public and legislative relations at SCCCD, Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Tulare) contacted Dr. Paul Parnell’s office last week to discuss concerns about the PROSPER Act.

“Their intentions are always good,” Ruiz said. “But sometimes it’s good to hear an outside perspective from some of the people who are on the ground floor doing the work.”

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