U.S. Department of Education Announces Negotiated Rulemakings

Publication Number 32 April 18, 2013

U.S. Department of Education Announces Negotiated Rulemakings

On April 15, 2013, the U.S. Department of Education (USDE) published a notice in the Federal Register that USDE will hold negotiated rulemakings over the next several years “to address more directly access to, and the affordability of, higher education and possible steps to improve the quality of higher education in the United States and to better encourage students to complete their education.” "Negotiated rulemaking" is a process by which the federal government consults with key constituents as part of drafting or revising regulations.

USDE will establish a negotiated rulemaking committee later in 2013 to draft regulations intended to prevent fraud related to federal student aid program funds. The negotiated rulemaking will address issues that include cash management of federal financial aid funds, state authorization for programs offered through distance education, state authorization for foreign locations of institutions located in a state, clock-to-credit hour conversion, gainful employment, changes made by the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act of 2013 to the campus safety and security reporting requirements in the Higher Education Act (HEA) and the definition of “adverse credit” for borrowers in the Federal Direct PLUS Loan Program. State authorization and gainful employment regulations have been the subject of litigation during the past two years, with several legal rulings blocking implementation by USDE.

USDE will hold three public hearings in May 2013 on the proposed topics for the negotiated rulemaking and will seek suggestions for additional topics. The hearings will be held in Washington, DC on May 21, in Minneapolis, Minnesota on May 23 and in San Francisco, California on May 30. More information on the hearings, including how members of the public may register to make presentations, may be found in the Federal Register notice. The negotiated rulemaking committee will begin meeting in September 2013 in the Washington, DC area. Committee members will be chosen following the public hearings.

Articles on USDE’s announcement appeared in Inside Higher Ed and The Chronicle of Higher Education.

U.S. Senate and House of Representatives Hold Hearings on College Affordability

The U.S. Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) and the House Subcommittee on Higher Education and Workforce Training both held hearings on college affordability on April 16, 2013. The hearings were described as preparing for the process of reauthorizing the HEA, expected to begin later in 2013 or early in 2014.

The Senate hearing, “The Challenge of College Affordability: The Student Lens,” featured testimony addressing the cost of higher education, The House hearing, “Keeping College Within Reach: The Role of Federal Student Aid Programs,” included witnesses addressing student aid and its impact on college affordability. Copies of testimony and archived webcasts of the hearings are available on the committees’ Websites.

The House Subcommittee on Higher Education and the Workforce will hold an additional hearing, “Keeping College Within Reach: Enhancing Transparency for Student, Families and Taxpayers,” on April 24, 2013.

Immigration Reform Legislation Introduced in U.S. Senate includes Provision on Accreditation

A bill to provide for comprehensive immigration reform was introduced in the U.S. Senate on April 17, 2013 by eight Senate Democrats and Republicans. The legislation (S. 744) contains language similar to that in visa bills introduced recently in the Senate and House (see Federal Update #31) regarding accrediting organizations’ recognition by USDE or the Council for Higher Education Accreditation.

The language in the Senate immigration reform legislation stipulates that, in order for immigrants with advanced degrees in a field of science, technology, engineering or mathematics from a U.S. institution or program to receive a visa, the institution that awarded the degree must be “accredited by an accrediting body that is itself accredited by either the Department of Education or the Council for Higher Education Accreditation.”