Administration's Higher Education Agenda, NACIQI Meeting and Other Federal Issues

Publication Number 59 June 26, 2017


In This Issue:

Administration's Higher Education Agenda Emerging

In recent weeks, the U.S. Department of Education (USDE) and the White House announced appointments
and are pursuing administrative actions that provide some sense of the Administration’s higher education agenda.

USDE announced several appointments that will affect higher education:

  • Kathleen Smith, former aide to Senate HELP Committee Chair Lamar Alexander (R-Tennessee) and a current USDE employee, is the new senior advisor to the assistant secretary for the Office of Postsecondary Education and will be the acting assistant secretary.
  • Adam Kissel, from the Charles Koch Foundation, will be the deputy assistant
    secretary for higher education programs.ed logo
  • Steven Menashi will be the deputy general counsel for postsecondary service
    and have the delegated authority for the duties of the general counsel.
  • Candice Jackson has been named deputy assistant secretary for civil rights
    and will serve as acting assistant secretary for civil rights.
  • Peter Oppenheim, education policy director and counsel for Republicans on the Senate HELP Committee, was nominated as assistant secretary for legislation and Congressional affairs, a position requiring Senate confirmation.

With regard to administrative actions related to higher education:

  • U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos has formed a committee of career employees and political appointees that will make recommendations for reorganizing USDE and reduce its workforce. The committee is scheduled to produce a draft restructuring plan for review and comment this summer, with a comprehensive plan to reorganize USDE expected in September 2017.
  • A regulatory reform task force also has been established to oversee implementation of USDE’s regulatory reform initiatives. A progress report on the task force’s work was issued by USDE on June 22, 2017.
  • USDE published a request for comments on June 22, 2017, seeking suggestions on regulations that may be appropriate for repeal, replacement or modification. USDE is undertaking a regulatory review to identify regulations that eliminate jobs or inhibit job creation; are outdated, unnecessary or ineffective; impose costs that exceed benefits; create a serious inconsistency or otherwise interfere with regulatory reform initiatives or policies; rely in whole or in part on data, information, or methods that are not publicly available or that are insufficiently transparent to meet the standard for reproducibility; or derive from or implement Executive Orders or other Presidential directives that have been subsequently rescinded or substantially modified. Comments must be received no later than August 21, 2017, and can be submitted through the Federal eRulemaking Portal.
  • The borrower defense to repayment rule will be delayed and renegotiated.
  • The gainful-employment rule will be delayed and renegotiated.
    A Notice of Intent to Conduct Negotiated Rulemaking on these two rules was published in the Federal Register on June 16, 2017. Public hearings on the rules will be held on July 10, 2017, in Washington, DC, and July 12, 2017, in Dallas, Texas.
  • Increased funding for apprenticeship and worker training programs will be proposed. Apprenticeships that are federally registered must have an educational component, usually involving employers working with institutions or other education providers and with a minimum amount of credit-hour-equivalent learning being completed. Such apprentices earn an industry-recognized certificate that can lead to college credits at some institutions.
  • USDE's Office for Civil Rights has said that it will discontinue its practice of automatically looking for systemic issues at colleges and universities as part of Title IV investigations and rather will make any determinations to conduct such examinations on a case-by-case basis.
  • In several speeches, USDE Secretary DeVos has questioned reauthorizing the Higher Education Act and suggested instead rewriting the law, saying real change is needed.

National Advisory Committee on Institutional Quality and Integrity Meets

dept of edOn June 20-22, 2017, USDE’s National Advisory Committee on Institutional Quality and Integrity (NACIQI) met in Washington, DC. (Click here for the meeting agenda.) NACIQI is the advisory body that provides recommendations to the Secretary of Education on recognition of accrediting organizations. Recognition by USDE affirms that the standards and processes of accrediting organizations and state accreditation approval agencies demonstrate compliance with USDE's criteria.

In advance of the meeting, USDE issued staff reports for all of the accrediting organizations scheduled for review.

At its meeting, NACIQI recommended:

  • Renewing recognition for five years for the Accreditation Council for Pharmacy Education, the American Dental Association Commission on Dental Accreditation, the American Occupational Therapy Association Accreditation Council for Occupational Therapy Education, the Association for Biblical Higher Education, the Association for Clinical Pastoral Education Accreditation Commission, the Distance Education Accrediting Commission and the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.
  • Renewing recognition for five years and approving an expansion of scope for the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education.
  • Continuing the Middle States Commission on Secondary Schools’ current recognition and requiring the agency to come into compliance within 12 months.
  • Approving degree-granting authority for Air University's new Master of Science in Airpower Strategy and Technology Integration degree.
  • Redesignating an existing degree-granting authority for the Army Command and General Staff College.

NACIQI also heard from a panel on the student unit records system and concluded the meeting with an accreditation policy discussion. A transcript of the meeting will be available on the NACIQI Website in the next few weeks.

U.S. Senate and House Introduce College Transparency billsus capitol bldg

On May 15, 2017, Senators Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), Elizabeth Warren (D- Massachusetts), Bill Cassidy (R-Louisiana) and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-Rhode Island) from the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee introduced The College Transparency Act (S. 1121). Congressmen Paul Mitchell (R-Michigan) and Jared Polis
(D-Colorado) introduced a companion bill (H.R. 2434) in the House of Representatives
on May 16. The legislation, which has the stated goal of streamlining institutional reporting requirements, would repeal the prohibition of a student unit records system and directs that USDE collect and report outcomes information and improve data currently available for stakeholders including students, parents, researchers and policymakers. USDE would be prohibited from selling the information or creating a federal college ratings or rankings system.

House Democrats Announce Higher Education Campaign

On May 24, 2017, Congressman Bobby Scott (D-Virginia), Ranking Democrat on the House Committee on Education and the Workforce and Congresswoman Susan Davis (D-California), Ranking Member of the Subcommittee on Higher Education and Workforce Development, announced a new legislative campaign titled Aim Higher, focused on access, affordability and completion in higher education. House Democrats plan to introduce legislation addressing these goals, which they will seek to include in reauthorization of the Higher Education Act.