CHEA Comments on U.S. Department of Education Proposed Regulations Addressing Program Integrity and Student Aid

Publication Number 12 August 6, 2010


CHEA Comments on U.S. Department of Education Proposed Regulations Addressing Program Integrity and Student Aid

On July 29, 2010, the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA) provided comments to the U.S. Department of Education (USDE) on the Department’s Notice of Proposed Rulemaking addressing program integrity and student aid programs. The proposed regulations (Federal Register, June 18, 2010) provide rules and definitions for a range of issues affecting colleges and universities as well as accrediting organizations.

USDE published the proposed regulations following a round of negotiated rulemaking – during which the federal government consults with constituents to draft or revise regulations – held from late 2009 to early 2010. A 45-day public comment period closed on August 2, 2010. USDE will review comments received and will issue final regulations by November 1, 2010 that will become effective on July 1, 2011.

CHEA’s comments to USDE focused on the impact of the proposed rules on accreditation in three vital areas: (1) the federalizing of a definition and monitoring decisions about the use of “credit hour” by colleges and universities, (2) the expansion of state oversight of institutions and accreditation through additional federal expectations of how state authorization is to be carried out and (3) establishing an overly broad federal definition of “misrepresentation” of information to the public (including information about accredited status and providing information to accrediting organizations). In all cases, CHEA recommended that these proposed rules not be adopted.

For more information on the proposed regulations and their impact on accreditation, as well as on the negotiated rulemaking, see CHEA Federal Update #11.


Under the leadership of the American Council on Education, more than 70 higher education associations and accrediting organizations filed joint comments on August 2, 2010 addressing USDE’s proposed regulations. CHEA was a signatory to the letter, which covered a range of issues including credit hour, state authorization, misrepresentation, incentive compensation, gainful employment and return of Title IV funds.

Nearly 2,000 colleges, universities, higher education associations, accrediting organizations and individuals also filed comments with USDE on the proposed regulations, which can be viewed on the U.S. government’s regulatory portal.


On July 26, 2010, USDE published proposed regulations in the Federal Register to establish measures for determining whether certain postsecondary education programs lead to gainful employment in recognized occupations and the conditions under which these programs remain eligible for federal financial assistance programs. The proposed rules – which apply to all non-liberal arts programs at for-profit institutions and to programs that do not lead to degrees at public and private, non-profit colleges and universities – use debt-to-income and debt-to-discretionary income ratios or loan repayment rates to measure gainful employment.

Gainful employment was one of most controversial issues addressed during the negotiated rulemaking held by USDE from late 2009 to early 2010 (see CHEA Federal Update #11). The issue was not addressed in the proposed rules published by USDE on June 18, 2010. A 45-day public comment period on the proposed regulations on gainful employment will end on September 9, 2010. USDE is expected to issue final regulations by November 11, 2010 that will become effective on July 1, 2011.


On July 29, 2010, CHEA joined with the Presidents’ Forum and Eduventures, Inc. to convene a webinar focusing on USDE’s proposed regulations on program integrity and their implications for higher education. Panelists included CHEA President Judith Eaton; Jan Friis, CHEA Vice President for Government Affairs; Michael Goldstein, Member and Co-Leader, Education Institutions Practice Group, Dow Lohnes PLLC; Jennifer Blum, Partner, Government and Regulatory Affairs Practice Group, Drinker Biddle & Reath LLP; and Richard Garrett, Managing Director, Continuing and Professional Education Learning Collaborative, Eduventures, Inc.

More than 200 participants took part in the 90-minute webinar, with discussion and questions focusing on the issues of state authorization, credit hour, misrepresentation, incentive compensation and gainful employment.


The Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee held a hearing on August 4, 2010 to address for-profit schools and student recruitment. The hearing follows a June 24, 2010 committee hearing.

Testifying at the hearing were Gregory Kutz, Managing Director, Office of Forensic Audits and Special Investigations, the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO); David Hawkins, Director of Public Policy and Research, National Association for College Admission Counseling; Michale McComis, Executive Director, Accrediting Commission of Career Colleges and Schools; and Joshua Pruyn, former admissions representative, Alta College, Inc.

While the primary focus of the hearing was on recruiting practices at for-profit colleges and universities, accreditation and the enforcement by accrediting organizations of standards related to recruitment practices received prominent attention. And, committee chair Senator Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) indicated that the committee is likely to hold a future hearing focusing on accreditation.

On the day before the hearing, GAO released a report on student recruiting practices at for-profit colleges. The report was the result of undercover tests conducted by GAO, using four fictitious prospective students to contact 15 for-profit colleges in six states and Washington, D.C. GAO found evidence of deceptive or “otherwise questionable” statements by schools to prospective students.

At the hearing’s close, Senator Harkin announced that he will request additional information from 30 for-profit schools, addressing issues such as graduation rates. He indicated that the committee will hold several more hearings on for-profit higher education, with the next hearing likely to be held in September.