CONGRESS AND REAUTHORIZATION
OF THE HIGHER EDUCATION ACT (HEA)
Since returning in January
2007, the U.S. Senate has been working on a new bill to reauthorize the
Higher Education Act (HEA). The provisions are likely to be similar to
the Senate bill (S. 1614) from the last Congress. A new bill may be introduced
in March of this year. The House of Representatives appears on track to
introduce a bill later in the year, with provisions that differ significantly
from the bill that was passed in the prior session (HR 609).
We expect that both bills will continue to focus on the same accreditation-related
issues as prior bills: student learning outcomes, institution and program
performance, transparency, distance learning and transfer of credit. In
addition, Congress is monitoring the work of the United States Department
of Education (USDE) and its upcoming negotiated rulemaking on accreditation
and implications for reauthorization.
The current HEA expires on June 30, 2007.
The 2007 CHEA Agenda
For Reauthorization of Higher Education Act
At its January 29, 2007 meeting,
the CHEA Board of Directors approved the 2007
CHEA Agenda for Reauthorization of the Higher Education Act. This
document will serve as the foundation of CHEA's work with the Congress
and USDE as reauthorization proceeds.
The 2007 Agenda is similar in many ways to the document approved
by the CHEA board in 2003. It calls on Congress to acknowledge the vital
and valuable role of accreditation in assuring academic quality and serving
students and society. It reaffirms the strength and success of accreditation
as a private, decentralized, judgment-based enterprise of self-regulation.
At the same time, the Agenda is a call for additional leadership
from higher education and accreditation in addressing the key issues of
student learning outcomes, institution and program performance, transparency,
distance learning and transfer of credit. While government may hold us
accountable for additional progress in these areas, the leadership for
developing evidence and information as well as addressing policy and effective
practice for student success needs to remain with colleges, universities,
programs and accrediting organizations working together.
The Secretary of Education's Commission on the Future of Higher Education: Stutus and Action on Recommendations Related to Accreditation
As reported in HEA Updates
USDE has moved in a number of directions since the release of the report
of the Commission on the Future of Higher Education in September 2006.
These include working with the National Advisory Committee on Institutional
Quality and Integrity especially to place additional emphasis on student
learning outcomes in the committee's review of individual accreditors,
conducting negotiated rulemaking on accreditation and hosting a March
2007 summit on the report's recommendations, including accreditation.
CHEA will participate in negotiated
rulemaking as a nonfederal negotiator. CHEA has also been invited to participate
in the March summit, including the work group on accreditation.
Here are additional details
about both the negotiated rulemaking and the summit.
Developments: Negotiated Rulemaking
As indicated in the Federal
Register of January 30, 2007, USDE has scheduled three negotiating sessions.
This first is February 21-23, 2007 at the Crystal City (VA) Marriott.
The second is March 26-28 and the third is April 24-26. Vickie Schray,
Senior Advisor to the Under Secretary of Education, is the federal negotiator.
She will be working with Kay Gilcher, Senior Policy Analyst. The meetings
are open to the public.
The agenda that has been announced
for the sessions is as follows:
- Due Process
- Substantive Change
- Relationship of Process Standards to Student Achievement
- Measures of Student Achievement
Definitions of Terms Related to Student Achievement
Standards for Programs Leading to Gainful Employment
- Consideration of Mission in Application of Standards
- Transfer of Credit and Acceptance of Credentials
- Definition of Terms
- Direct Assessment
- Scope of
- Technical and
Information to the Public
- Record Keeping
and Confidentiality of Agency Materials
According to information shared
by USDE in January, the committee's first order of business is the formal
adoption of the protocols for the negotiations. After protocols are adopted,
the negotiators will finalize the agenda and begin to discuss the substance
of the work before the committee. The first negotiating session will be
a workshop on the issues to be negotiated.
Title IV Negotiated Rulemaking Committees.
I. Mission Statement
The U.S. Department
of Education has established this negotiated rulemaking committee
to develop proposed accreditation regulations pursuant to Sec. 492
of the Higher Education Act of 1965, as amended (HEA).
- The committee
consists of the following members:
- The member
will participate for the purpose of determining consensus. The
first alternate will participate for the purpose of determining
consensus in the absence of the member. Either the member or an
alternate may speak during the negotiations.
- With approval
by a consensus of the committee, individuals, including specialists,
who are invited by a member may participate in committee meetings
as needed and appropriate, but are not members of the committee.
- The committee
may add members. Requests for membership must be approved by a
consensus of the committee under such conditions as the committee
establishes at the time. New members may begin to participate
immediately upon admission to membership.
III. Decision Making
The committee will operate
by consensus, meaning that there must be no dissent by any member
in order for the committee to be considered to have reached agreement.
Thus, no member can be outvoted. Members should not block or withhold
consensus unless they have serious reservations about the approach
or solution that is proposed for consensus. Absence will be equivalent
to not dissenting. All consensus agreements reached during the negotiations
will be assumed to be tentative agreements until members of the
committee reach final agreement on regulatory language. Once final
consensus is achieved, committee members may not thereafter withdraw
- The goal
of the committee is to develop proposed regulations that reflect
a final consensus of the committee. The Department will provide
the preamble to the proposed regulations for review and comment
prior to publication of the proposed regulations.
- If the committee
reaches a final consensus on all issues, the Department will use
this consensus-based language in its proposed regulations, and
committee members will refrain from commenting negatively on the
consensus-based regulatory language, except as provided in paragraph
- If the committee
reaches a final consensus on some but not all issues, the Department
will include the consensus-based language in its proposed regulations,
and committee members will refrain from commenting negatively
on the consensus-based language, except as provided in paragraph
- The Department
will not alter the consensus-based language of its proposed regulations
unless the Department reopens the negotiated rulemaking process
or provides a written explanation to the committee members why
it has decided to depart from that language. That written explanation
will contain a detailed statement of the reasons for altering
the consensus-based language and will be provided to the committee
members sufficiently in advance of the publication of the proposed
regulations so as to allow them a real opportunity to express
their concerns to the Secretary. If the Department alters consensus-based
language, it also will identify the changes made subsequent to
consensus in the preamble to the proposed regulations, and committee
members may comment positively or negatively on those changes
and on other parts of the proposed regulations.
V. Committee Meetings
- The facilitator(s)
will maintain a clear and reliable record of tentative and final
agreements reached during the negotiation process, as well as
discussions of preamble language. The draft meeting summaries
will be provided to members, who will share them with coalition
partners. After review and approval by the committee, this record
will be made available to the public.
- The Department
will make every effort to distribute materials to committee members
in a timely fashion. To the extent practicable, the Department
will provide members with documents for discussion at committee
meetings at least seven days in advance of the meetings.
- A caucus
for the purpose of consultation may be requested of the facilitator(s)
at any time by any member.
- The facilitator(s)
will be responsible for developing an agenda for all meetings
of the committee. This agenda will be developed in consultation
with the members of the committee.
- All committee
meetings, but not caucuses, are open to the public.
VI. Safeguards for
- Any member
may withdraw from the negotiations at any time without prejudice,
by notifying the facilitator(s) in writing.
- All members
shall act in good faith in all aspects of these negotiations.
with the press will generally be limited to discussion of the
overall objectives and progress of the negotiations.
VII. Meeting Facilitation
- The facilitator(s)
will serve at the discretion of the committee, and will be responsible
for helping to ensure that the process runs smoothly, developing
meeting agendas, preparing and distributing a record of agreements,
and helping the parties resolve their differences and achieve
consensus on the issues to be addressed by the committee.
- The facilitator(s)
will be available to facilitate all meetings of the full committee
and, to the extent possible, caucuses.
March 2007 Summit - "A Test of Leadership"
As published in a December
21, 2006 Dear Colleague letter, the summit that the Secretary of Education
is convening will bring higher education, accreditation and other sectors
together to discuss the recommendations of the Futures Commission. It
will be held in Washington, DC, March 21-22, 2007. The work of the summit
will focus on five priority areas: (1) aligning K-12 and higher education
expectations, (2) increasing need-based aid, (3) using accreditation to
support and emphasize student learning outcomes, (4) serving adults and
other non-traditional students and (5) expanding affordability through
increased transparency of costs.
According to information provided
several weeks ago, USDE has created work groups that will be responsible
for identifying the top several actions, in advance of the summit, that
can be implemented in the next 12 months. One of the work groups will
focus on accreditation and student learning outcomes and will be chaired
by Geri Malandra, Vice Chancellor for Strategic Management, University
of Texas System.
Scope of Work:
Develop a Top Five List for 2007. Actions must be concrete, politically
feasible to implement this year, high-leverage, and written specifically
to the authority of a stakeholder group (e.g., business, philanthropy,
state policymakers, college president, and system head/trustee).
Include in the list actions that have demonstrated examples of best
- Examples of Appropriate Actions for a Top Five
List for Aligning High School Standards and College Expectation.
- University and system governing boards should
require that campuses develop college readiness standards in English
- Statewide governing and coordinating boards should
evaluate existing assessments for postsecondary placement and
high school assessments for predictive validity.
- Legislators should provide matching funds to
university systems that agree to offer common college placement
tests and diagnostic information to high school juniors.
- State boards of education should adopt new high
school course requirements for graduation that minimally meet
the American Competitiveness Grant requirements.
Example of an
Action that Should not Appear on a Top Five List:
- Align high school and college assessment tests
(not written to any stakeholder, not a concrete step for action
in the next 12 months, not specific to which tests are appropriate
for next 12 months).
Work Group Composition:
- Work group members to include no more than 10
other subject-matter experts who know the best practices related
to the priority and/or the unique authorities, capabilities, and
political will of the key stakeholders with responsibility.
- Chaired by stakeholder. Chair represents work
group and presents Top Five List at the summit's opening panel.
Work Process &
- Chairs receive charge from Under Secretary.
- Work group staffed by Office of the Under Secretary
(OUS) lead for that issue. OUS staff supports chair, manages work
flow, and consults with national associations to vet draft recommendations.
Overall project editor from OUS maintains consistency in recommendations
across work groups.
- Work group meets (by phone) to discuss relevant
Commission recommendations, summit goals, work process, stakeholders
to whom to direct recommendations.
- Work group meets (by phone) to brainstorm Top
- Work group evaluates draft list and revises to
be completed by Friday, March 2, 2007.
Reintroduction of Degree Mill Legislation
On January 31, 2007 Congresswoman
Betty McCollum (D-MN) re-introduced the degree mill legislation she had
proposed in the 109th Congress. The Congresswoman discussed the new bill
at the 2007 CHEA Annual Conference recently held in Washington DC. "The
Diploma Integrity Protection Act of 2007" (H.R. 773), is cosponsored
by Congressman Timothy Bishop (D-NY) and Congressman Raul Grijalva (D-AZ).
The bill addresses a number of difficult issues related to degree mills.
The major provisions of the
- Definitions of
a "degree granting institution," "diploma mill"
and "institution of higher education."
- A Task Force to
determine the characteristics of degree-granting institutions, the feasibility
of defining a "fraudulent degree-granting institution," laws
and regulations that might be used to address "fraudulent degree-granting
institutions" and other related subjects. The Task Force will:
A Sense of Congress
inviting states to follow the federal lead in this area.
An unfair and
deceptive practices provision enforced by the Federal Trade Commission
that recognizes accreditation as a key to diploma integrity.
A study to inform
the Task Force in its work analyzing:
- develop a
plan to protect the federal government against the use of diploma
mill credentials to gain federal employment.
- present legislation
for Congress to consider.
- the numbers
and types of degree-granting institutions that are not accredited
that are legitimate as opposed to fraudulent.
- why legitimate
institutions do not obtain accreditation.
- steps that
can be taken to repair vulnerabilities in the student loan program.
H.R. 773 has been referred
to a number of committees in the House, including the Committee on Education