Congressional Hearings Conclude in Advance of HEA Reauthorization
HOUSE EDUCATION COMMITTEE CONCLUDES HEARINGS IN ADVANCE OF HIGHER EDUCATION ACT REAUTHORIZATION
On April 1, 2014, the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Education and the Workforce held a hearing titled “Keeping College Within Reach: Meeting the Needs of Contemporary Students.” The hearing focused on the changing needs of college students and how federal policies can promote continued innovation and flexibility in postsecondary education. An archived video of the hearing and copies of witness testimony are available on the committee’s Website.
At the hearing, Chair John Kline (R-MN) stated that this would be the last held by the committee in advance of drafting legislation to reauthorize the Higher Education Act (HEA). It is anticipated that the committee will produce draft legislation by early summer. Since June, 2013, the full Committee and the Subcommittee on Education and Workforce Training have held 14 hearings on the topic of “Keeping College Within Reach” (see Federal Update #40), addressing a range of higher education-related topics, including accreditation.
SENATE HEALTH, EDUCATION, LABOR AND PENSIONS COMMITTEE HOLDS HEARING ON TEACHER PREPARATION
The U.S. Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee held a hearing on March 25, 2014 to address “Teacher Preparation: Ensuring a Quality Teacher in Every Classroom.” The hearing – which focused on teacher preparation program accountability – was the seventh in a series “to inform the committee’s reauthorization of the Higher Education Act,” according to Committee Chair Tom Harkin (D-IA). Copies of witness testimony and an archived video of the hearing are available on the committee’s Website.
TRANSFER OF CREDIT BILL INTRODUCED IN HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES
Representative George Miller (D-CA), Ranking Member of the House Committee on Education and the Workforce, introduced legislation on April 1, 2014 to address issues related to transfer of credits among institutions of higher education. H.R. 4348 (the “Transferring Credit for College Completion Act of 2014”) would require public higher education institutions to enter into articulation agreements with other public institutions in the same state, including common general education core curricula, fully transferable credits, common course numbering and a guarantee that an associate degree in an academic major will be credited as the first two years of a related baccalaureate degree. The legislation is similar to a bill introduced by Rep. Miller in the last session of Congress.
LEGISLATION INTRODUCED IN SENATE TO CREATE ADDITIONAL OVERSIGHT OF FOR-PROFIT HIGHER EDUCATION
Legislation has been introduced in the Senate that would create a new federal committee to coordinate and expand oversight of for-profit higher education institutions. “The Proprietary Education Oversight Coordination Improvement Act” (S. 2204) was introduced on April 2, 2014 by Senate HELP Committee Chair Tom Harkin and Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL). Rep. Elijah Cummins (D-MD) is expected to introduce a companion bill in the House of Representatives next week.
The bill would establish a committee of representatives from nine federal agencies including USDE, with the Secretary of Education or a designee to serve as Chair. The committee would be charged with coordination of federal oversight to increase accountability and promote the quality of proprietary institutions for students and taxpayers and protect students from unfair or fraudulent practices. The committee will report to Congress on actions against proprietary institutions and student complaints and will provide recommendations for legislative and regulatory action. In addition, it will report on student aid, including private loans, student progress and executive compensation. The bill would also create additional reporting requirements for proprietary institutions, including information on the total amount of federal assistance received, retention and graduation rates, cohort default rates and passage rates of licensing exams or other tests required to enter certain careers. A report on industry-wide data will be made available to the public. Proprietary institutions will still require accreditation in order to participate in Title IV programs.
NEGOTIATED RULEMAKING COMMITTEE ON PROGRAM INTEGRITY MEETS IN WASHINGTON, DC
A USDE negotiated rulemaking committee on proposed program integrity regulations met in February and March, 2014 in Washington, DC. The work of the negotiated rulemaking committee is scheduled to conclude with a meeting on April 23-25, 2014. Issues addressed by the committee include state authorization of courses and programs offered through distance education or correspondence education and for foreign locations of institutions located in a state.
To participate in federal student aid programs, all higher education institutions currently must be authorized by the regulatory authority in the state where they are headquartered. Under the proposed program integrity regulations, online educational offerings by institutions would require regulatory approval from every state in which they enroll students. The revised rules also would establish additional requirements for institutions’ foreign locations. If an institution has a branch campus or additional location in a foreign country, that campus must be legally authorized to operate by an appropriate authority in that country and the branch campus must be approved by the institution’s recognized accrediting organization. The state in which the main campus of the institution is located must have a process to review complaints concerning the foreign branch campus and the institution must inform current and prospective students that they may use this complaint process for any complaints regarding the foreign branch campus. More information on the negotiated rulemaking is available on USDE’s Website.
NATIONAL ADVISORY COMMITTEE ON INSTITUTIONAL QUALITY AND INTEGRITY TO PROVIDE ADVICE TO USDE SECRETARY ON ACCREDITATION POLICY
USDE’s National Advisory Committee on Institutional Quality and Integrity (NACIQI) -- the advisory body that provides recommendations to the U.S. Secretary of Education on the recognition of accrediting organizations – has announced plans to advise the Secretary of Education on accreditation policy. In April 2012, NACIQI offered a report to the Secretary with recommendations for USDE’s accreditation agenda, in advance of HEA reauthorization.
NACIQI has sent a request to Judith Eaton, President of the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA), and a number of other accreditation and higher education stakeholders to submit papers on “the most important considerations in advancing quality assurance,” to help NACIQI craft further recommendations for USDE on accreditation issues. The papers will serve as a basis for discussion at NACIQI’s June 18-19, 2014 meeting in Washington, DC.
BILLS ADDRESSING ACCREDITATION INTRODUCED IN CALIFORNIA
As we have done in past issues, the Federal Update provides information on legislative efforts in various states that may have an impact on accreditation.
Several bills addressing accreditation have been introduced in the California State Assembly and Senate:
- AB 1942 was introduced on February 19, 2014 by Assembly Member Rob Bonta (D-Oakland). The bill seeks to allow community college districts to choose their accrediting organization, would require more transparency regarding the accreditation process and decisions and would require accrediting organizations to base their decisions on compliance with conditions specified by the Board of Governors of the California Community Colleges.
- SB 1068 was introduced on February 19, 2014 by Senator Jim Beall (D-San Jose). The legislation would authorize the governing board of a community college district to choose the accrediting organization to accredit community colleges under its jurisdiction. The bill also would require the board of governors, on or before January 1, 2016, to report to the California State legislature on the feasibility of creating an independent accrediting agency to accredit the California Community Colleges and two-year private postsecondary educational institutions.
CHEA will follow this legislation and report on any developments.