House Committee on Education and the Workforce marks up Higher Education Act reauthorization bill
In This Issue:
- PROSPER Act Markup
- CHEA Holds All-Accreditor Meeting on PROSPER Act
- Newly Elected Senators Seated on HELP Committee
- February 2018 National Advisory Committee on Institutional Quality and Integrity Meeting
- Senate Democrats Request NACIQI Review of Institutional Conversions
- Additional 18 Months Requested for Schools Seeking New Accreditation
- In Case You Missed It: Bills Affecting Accreditation Introduced in Senate
On December 12, 2017, the House Committee on Education and the Workforce held a markup of H.R. 4508, the "Promoting Real Opportunity, Success, and Prosperity through Education Reform (PROSPER)” Act. A markup is the Committee member’s opportunity to amend the bill before it goes to the House floor for amendment and final passage. The PROSPER Act is a major overhaul of the Higher Education Act (HEA) reauthorized in 2008 (see Federal Update #62).
During the markup, 60 amendments were proposed and 20 were accepted, including an amendment in the nature of a substitute, which replaced the Bill as introduced and added approximately 50 pages to the legislation. The bill was approved by the committee by a vote of 23 to 17. The bill next goes to the House floor, although a date has not yet been set.
On January 10, 2018, the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA) held an all-accreditor meeting in Washington, DC to review the PROSPER Act and its provisions affecting accreditation. The meeting drew representatives from 31 regional, national career-related, national faith-related and programmatic accrediting organizations. In addition to the discussion at the meeting, representatives from both Majority and Minority staff of the House Committee on Education and the Workforce briefed the accreditors on various provisions of the bill.
Senators Tina Smith (D-Minnesota) and Doug Jones (D-Alabama) are now members of the U.S. Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP). Minnesota Democrat Senator Al Franken’s resignation created a vacancy on the committee and Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-Rhode Island) left the Committee, providing available seats for the newly elected Senators. Click here for a full list of Committee members.
The National Advisory Committee on Institutional Quality and Integrity (NACIQI) will meet in Washington, DC on February 7-9, 2018. 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.
The following organizations will be reviewed for renewal of recognition: Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing; Accreditation Commission for Midwifery Education; American Physical Therapy Association, Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education; Middle States Commission on Higher Education; Higher Learning Commission; New England Association of Schools and Colleges, Commission on Institutions of Higher Education; the New York State Board of Regents’ Commission of Education; and WASC Senior College and University Commission.
The following accreditors are submitting compliance reports: American Board of Funeral Service Education, Committee on Accreditation; Midwifery Education Accreditation Council; and the Montessori Accreditation Council for Teacher Education.
An application by the North Dakota Board of Nursing for renewal of recognition as a state approval agency for nurse education will be reviewed.
A compliance report by the New York State Board of Regents, State Education Department, Office of the Professions, Nursing Education as a state approval agency for nurse education will be reviewed, as will a compliance report by the Oklahoma Board of Career and Technology Education as a state agency for the approval of public postsecondary vocational education. NACIQI also will continue its discussion of a student-level data network and review the work of its Subcommittee on Regulatory Reform.
On January 11, 2018, five Senate Democrats, including Elizabeth Warren (Massachusetts) and Ranking Member of the HELP Committee Patty Murray (Washington) sent a letter to NACIQI Chair Arthur Keiser and Vice Chair Frank Wu asking NACIQI to review how accreditors consider changes in ownership and conversions from for-profit to non-profit status for institutions. The letter asks that NACIQI, at its upcoming meeting, “advise the Secretary on setting specific standards the accrediting agencies must apply when approving conversions in order to be recognized.”
On January 2, 2018, the Career Education Colleges and Universities, (CECU) requested that Congress grant additional time for institutions accredited by the Accrediting Council for Independent Colleges and Schools (ACICS) to complete the accreditation reviews and earn accreditation from a new accreditor. ACICS lost its federal recognition in December, 2016. These institutions, by law, have 18 months from December 12, 2016 to receive new accreditation (see Federal Update #57). However, given the number of applications received, other accreditors are still acting on requests for new accreditation. The 18 months expires on June 11, 2018. The CECU letter requests an additional 18 months. The language is included in a yet-to-be-passed Senate version of an Omnibus Appropriations Bill, S. 1771 (see Federal Update #61). The CECU letter states that “no less than 155 schools serving over 235,000 students have not yet finalized such transition” and asks “Congress to either enact the Omnibus Appropriations Bill or separate and pass under suspension this simple extension of time.”
In December, 2017, several bills were introduced that would affect accreditation:
Senators Jeanne Shaheen (D-New Hampshire) and Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) introduced, on December 14, 2017, S. 2231, the “Student Protection and Success Act.” The bill would require risk-sharing payments by higher education institutions with low cohort student loan repayment rates. Low student loan repayment rates could also lead to an institution being ineligible for student aid.
On December 6, 2017, Senators Chris Coons (D-Delaware) and Johnny Isakson (R-Georgia) introduced S. 2201, the “Access, Success, and Persistence in Reshaping Education Act of 2017” (ASPIRE Act). seeking to incentivize colleges to expand access for low-income students and increase graduation rates for all students. Selective colleges with lower numbers of low-income students would have four years to boost low-income student enrollment or pay a fee to participate in federal student aid programs, while high-access, low-performing colleges have the option to receive up to $2 million a year to improve student outcomes.
Senator Mike Lee (R-Utah) introduced on December 13, 2017 S. 2228, the “Higher Education Reform and Opportunity Act of 2017” that would permit states to create alternative accreditation systems “to open up new options for students qualifying for federal aid.” The bill would leave the existing system of accreditation in place, but would permit states to accredit institutions offering innovative education options such as massive online open courses and competency-based education. States would enter into agreements with USDE that would allow students in such courses of programs to be eligible for federal student aid.