For the first time since the Pennsylvania Higher Education Assistance Agency (PHEAA) was created in 1963, there will be a change in the board's structure. The House and Senate have approved a bill and sent it to the governor's desk that reduces the number of state lawmakers on the 20-member PHEAA Board.
State Senator Sean Logan, a Democrat from Monroeville, is the co-chair of the PHEAA Board. He says the measure cuts the number of legislators on the board from 16 to 12 and reduces the length of the term from 6 to 4 years..."the legislation would allow the PHEAA Board to be restructured replacing the 4 legislators with private sector folks so that PHEAA can continue to evolve to address the challenges of the student aid industry."
The 4 private sector board members would have to have professional backgrounds relative to higher education finance, and they would be appointed by the four respective legislative caucuses.
Logan says over the 47 years the number of grants awarded and the total amount has jumped tremendously with $388 million going to 170,000 students in the coming year.
However, the average award this past year dropped $66, from $2,794 to $2,728.
Logan says the board restructuring comes 3 years after financial reforms that has saved the agency $77 million. Those reforms came after media reports that showed members spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on board retreats that included cigars, alcohol and falconry instruction.
This month PHEAA became one of four vendors to be awarded a contract by the federal government to handle student loans with direct lending. Board Co-Chair State Representative Bill Adolph says the money from the federal contract will benefit Pennsylvania college students and families "through larger grants later on down the road."