|Number 43, July 7, 2014|
EDUCATION UNDER SECRETARY TED MITCHELL ADDRESSES CHEA 2014 SUMMER WORKSHOP
The accreditation community heard for the first time from newly confirmed Under Secretary of Education Ted Mitchell at the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA) 2014 Summer Workshop on June 25.
Mitchell stated that U.S. Department of Education (USDE) regulations governing accreditation should be “less prescriptive, less costly and less granular.” He noted that USDE’s quality agenda centers around consumer protection, including accreditation’s role in access, attainment, affordability and promoting innovation. Mitchell also stressed the importance of clarifying the roles of accrediting organizations, the federal government and the states, while affirming USDE’s support for accreditation retaining its role as the gatekeeper for Title IV and other federal funds. Addressing the recently concluded negotiated rulemaking on state authorization rules (see Federal Update #42), he noted “We are pausing on state authorization,” saying “this is complicated and we want to get it right.”
U.S. SENATORS AND REPRESENTATIVES INTRODUCE BILLS AND RELEASE PROPOSALS FOR HIGHER EDUCATION ACT REAUTHORIZATION
Leadership of the U.S. Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee and the House of Representatives Education and the Workforce Committee recently introduced bills and released legislative proposals for reauthorization of the Higher Education Act (HEA). First passed in 1965, the HEA – which governs higher education financial aid and related issues, including accreditation – was last reauthorized by Congress in 2008. While a large legislative proposal addressing a range of issues and a draft bill addressing federal student financial aid simplification were released in the Senate, other smaller bills focusing on specific aspects of higher education regulation were introduced in the House. Additionally, House Republicans issued a white paper on their HEA reauthorization agenda.
The recent activity around HEA reauthorization – with bills introduced, draft legislation released and a white paper issued – is unusual. Typically, the HEA is reauthorized through a large omnibus bill.
SENATE BILLS AND PROPOSALS
On June 25, 2014, Senate HELP Committee Chair Tom Harkin (D-IA) released a discussion draft of HEA reauthorization legislation. Titled The Higher Education Affordability Act, the 785-page proposal covers a wide range of higher education-related issues and includes topics addressed through previously introduced bills. Provisions addressing accreditation include requirements that accreditation be more transparent. Accrediting organizations would be required to make a number of documents available to the public, including 1) self-studies by institutions, 2) accreditation team reports on site visits, 3) accrediting organizations’ reports on compliance by institutions and programs with accreditation standards and performance with respect to student achievement and 4) reports on all adverse actions taken against accredited institutions or programs and all supporting documentation for such action. Additionally, USDE would be required to provide a Webpage that provides a single point of access to these accreditation documents.
HELP Committee Ranking Member Lamar Alexander (R-TN) released a draft bill on June 19, 2014 addressing federal student financial aid. The Financial Aid Simplification and Transparency Act, cosponsored by Senator Michael Bennet (D-CO), would replace the current Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) form, which requires applicants to answer more than 100 questions, with a form asking two questions: family size and family income from two years prior to seeking a student loan. The bill also would reduce the existing six federal student loan programs to three: one undergraduate loan program, one graduate loan program and one parent loan program.
HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES PROPOSALS
In the House of Representatives, Republicans introduced three bills on June 26, 2014 addressing transparency and federal student financial aid:
In addition, House Education and the Workforce Committee Chair John Kline (R-MN) and Higher Education and Workforce Training Subcommittee Chair Virginia Foxx (R-NC) released a white paper on June 24, 2014 outlining House Republicans’ agenda and policy proposals for HEA reauthorization. The white paper notes that “federal policy should protect the balance of responsibilities that has always existed” among accreditation, the federal government and the states, stating that the balance has been upended by “a series of burdensome regulations.” Included in the white paper is a link to the CHEA Initiative Final Report, published in November, 2012 to provide policy recommendations in advance of HEA reauthorization.
ADDITIONAL HIGHER EDUCATION BILLS INTRODUCED
In addition to legislation addressing issues related to HEA reauthorization, Senate bills addressing other higher education issues with an impact on accreditation were recently introduced:
CHEA will follow this legislation and report on any developments.
The Federal Update informs CHEA members
and interested parties on federal policy developments related to
self-regulation and peer review. Please direct any inquiries or comments
to Jan Friis, CHEA Vice President for Government Affairs, at firstname.lastname@example.org or at (202) 955-6126.