January 13, 2020
WASHINGTON Today, U.S. Senators Roy Blunt (Mo.), Steve Daines (Mont.), Joni Ernst (Iowa), James Lankford (Okla.), and Tim Scott (S.C.) released a letter they sent to U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos expressing support for the Education Department’s proposed rule to ensure Title IV programs remain available to all eligible higher education institutions and students regardless of their religious status or beliefs.
“Under the current regulatory regime, students and faith-based institutions face a complicated web of rules that are at best an open question and at worst unconstitutional discrimination,” the senators wrote. “In particular, the provisions for students who are members of a religious order unacceptably single out members of a faith group beyond what is necessary and violate the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment.”
As the senators note in their letter, the proposed rulemaking makes important changes to strengthen religious liberty protections for students and faith-based higher education institutions by:
• removing language that explicitly discriminates against students for their religious beliefs;
• clarifying that borrowers who work for employers that engage in religious activities can qualify for Public Service Loan Forgiveness, permitting certain requirements;
• allowing a narrow category of borrowers to defer their loans while serving as a full-time volunteer with a tax-exempt organization if the borrower conducts religious activities as a part of his or her official duties; and
• eliminating inconsistent limitations on the ability of faith-based institutions to participate in the Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs (GEAR UP).
The senators continued, “For these reasons, we commend the administration for taking steps to ensure clarity and religious liberty protections for students and faith-based higher education institutions. Importantly, Title IV programs remain available to all eligible students and entities regardless of their religious status or beliefs.”
Read the full letter here.