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Debt-Free College for Future Feds, Expanding Military Parental Leave and More

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A Democratic senator introduced a bill last month that would allow students to graduate from college debt-free, provided they enter public service.

The Strengthening American Communities Act (S. 2984), introduced in May by Sen. Ben Cardin of Maryland but announced last week, would establish a National Public Service Education Grant program, which would pay a significant portion of students’ tuition, provided that they agree to work for at least three years in public service. The program could remove many students’ reliance on student loans to pay for post-secondary education, and allow graduates to enter the workforce debt free.

And those already working in positions eligible for the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program, which offers to erase debt after a decade of work in public service, would see relief after only three years.

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“The partnerships, created under the act among the federal government, states [and institutions of higher education], ensure students have a pathway to complete their degree without the burden of taking on exorbitant student loan costs,” Cardin said in a statement. “[No] individual willing to serve their community in a public service career should be held back from their calling due to the high cost of obtaining a college education.”

Meanwhile last week, the Air Force announced that it was expanding the amount of leave available to new parents.

Previously, the service allowed for 12 weeks of maternity leave for women service members who give birth, along with 10 days of leave for Airmen whose spouse gave birth. Under the new policy, which was authorized as part of the 2017 National Defense Authorization Act, maternity leave will be six weeks, while primary caregiver leave will be six weeks, and secondary caregivers will receive 21 days of leave.

A mother who gives birth will receive both maternity leave and primary caregiver leave. The new policy provides expanded leave for Airmen whose spouses gave birth, and the new primary caregiver leave category provides time off for same sex couples, as well as adoptive and surrogate parents.

In a press release, Air Force officials stressed that parents cannot transfer leave from one to another, and that Airmen cannot split their leave—all parental leave must be taken at once. But primary and secondary caregiver leave can be taken at any point within the first year after a child’s birth or adoption.

Over on Capitol Hill, Rep. Ralph Norman, R-S.C., introduced a bill last week that would require agency leaders to submit monthly travel logs to the Government Accountability Office, in response to a spate of scandals last year over officials’ decisions to fly first class.

The Formally List Your Travel Act (H.R. 6061) would make agency heads submit a record of their travel itinerary to the comptroller general each month, or else surrender 1 percent of their budget. If an official does not submit travel logs for a full fiscal year, their agency’s budget would be cut by 15 percent.

The bill also would ban Senate-confirmed appointees from flying first class for any reason.

Erich Wagner is a staff correspondent covering pay, benefits and other federal workforce issues. He joined Government Executive in the spring of 2017 after extensive experience writing about state and local issues in Maryland and Virginia, most recently as editor-in-chief of the Alexandria Times. He holds a bachelor's degree in journalism from the University of Maryland.

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