It occurred to us recently that readers might be wondering about the status and outlook for the Student Financial Aid and Fiscal Responsibility Act (SAFRA) legislation currently pending in Congress that would, among other things, establish a new Early Learning Challenge Grant program to support states in developing comprehensive, statewide birth-to-five early childhood systems. Fortunately, our colleagues at Higher Ed Watch have provided a useful update!
As readers may recall, SAFRA passed the House of Representatives in mid-September. Now the action moves to the Senate--except that there's not much SAFRA action to report there, because the bill, like a lot of other things in Washington these days, is on hold until the Senate comes to resolution on health care reform.
Even though SAFRA includes early childhood provisions, it is primarily a bill to reform the federal student loan program (hence its name), with early childhood reaping some of the benefits of the savings those reforms produce. These student loan reforms are more controversial, and face greater opposition, in the Senate than in the House, and as a result some early childhood advocates have become concerned about the oulook for Early Learning Challenge Grants. But, as our colleagues at Higher Ed Watch clearly explain, reform is coming to the student loan programs, whether student loan industry officials like it or not. And Early Learning Challenge Grants are along for the ride. That said, given the ongoing debate over health care reform, the wait for SAFRA's eventual passage will likely continue for a while--certainly longer than we expected when it was introduced in July.
Readers who are interested in more closely following the debate over SAFRA's student loan reforms should consider adding our sibling blog, Higher Ed Watch, to their RSS readers. And if you're following the health care reform debate, our colleagues at New Health Dialogue should also be required reading.