By Judith Mun, AACOM Director of Government Relations
At the start of the current legislative session last January, AACOM introduced its Public Policy Agenda for the 116th Congress, which outlines the association’s key federal advocacy priorities to help ensure that osteopathic medical education continues to be an active force in the formulation of national health and higher education policies.
Since then, Congress has passed a number of bills, including a higher education bill that simplifies the federal financial aid application, verification, and student loan repayment processes. FAFSA® simplification has long been a goal of U.S. Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee Chair Lamar Alexander (R-TN), who will not be seeking re-election this year. Before his approaching retirement, Chair Alexander, along with his HELP Committee counterpart Ranking Member Patty Murray (D-WA), hoped to comprehensively reauthorize the Higher Education Act (HEA), the law governing federal financial aid programs that health professions and other students rely on to finance their education, but passing this legislation with a divided Congress has proved challenging.
As a key component of AACOM’s Public Policy Agenda, the association recognizes the significant student loan debt burden osteopathic medical students and graduates shoulder, as well as the overall impact this debt has on those pursuing primary care and other critical specialties. AACOM continues to strongly champion a comprehensive reauthorization of the HEA that protects both the Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) and Grad PLUS Loan Programs. Protecting and preserving these programs will be vital to addressing the graduate student debt issues facing future osteopathic physicians. It is through AACOM’s ED to MED campaign that health professions students and other advocates can raise the profile of graduate student debt issues in the halls of Congress. As the 2020 elections draw nearer, ED to MED is calling on its advocates to remain committed to the effort to save PSLF and save Grad PLUS.