December 2013 Newsletter
Gainful Employment Negotiated Rulemaking Extended to Third and Final Session
At the conclusion of what was scheduled to be the last “gainful employment” negotiated rulemaking session on November 20, the U.S. Department of Education (ED) acknowledged growing concerns from negotiators over the lack of available data on the impact of the proposed rules and suggested adding one additional meeting day to attempt to reach consensus. Negotiators and ED will now meet again on Friday, December 13 to discuss unresolved concerns and to review the latest estimates from the Department on how many vocational programs would pass, fail, or otherwise struggle to meet the gainful employment metrics in their current form. As defined under federal law, the majority of programs that fall under the requirement to prepare students for “gainful employment” are located at more than 1,200 community and technical colleges nationwide.
Rumors Abound over Budget Conference Committee Deal
As the December 13th deadline approaches for the budget conference committee to produce its recommendations to Congress, reports of a framework for a budget deal have emerged. The committee co-chairs, Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) and Congressman Paul Ryan (R-WI), have been working behind the scenes to develop a budget plan for the remainder of FY 2014 and 2015. Reports have indicated that the emerging agreement could replace as much as $65 billion of the $218.7 billion in scheduled sequester cuts for FY 2014 and 2015.
CTE the Focus of House Hearing and New Grant Program
On November 19th, the House Committee on Education and the Workforce held a hearing entitled, “Preparing Today's Students for Tomorrow's Jobs: Improving the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act.” The hearing focused on the reauthorization of the Perkins Act (CTE), and was the first full committee hearing examining these issues since 2006.
Higher Ed Roundup
A series of higher education hearings and a new round of negotiated rulemaking are among the highlights in this month’s “Higher Ed Roundup,” as talk surrounding the reauthorization of the Higher Education Act heats up on Capitol Hill. Additionally, in November the U.S. Department of Education (ED) held four "open forums" on the President's plan to design a college ratings system. ACCT provided testimony on the President's plan and encouraged ED to develop data that fairly and accurately reflect the unique open-access mission of community colleges.
November 2013 Newsletter
Post-Shutdown: Where Congress Goes From Here
On October 1st the new federal fiscal year began, and with no continuing joint appropriations package coming from Congress the government ceased operations for the first time in seventeen years. Partisan fighting over the budget, spending, and the Affordable Care Act had come to a head resulting in a sixteen day government shutdown. During that time 800,000 federal workers were furloughed, including the majority of staff from the Department of Education. However, the impact on higher education institutions and students was not felt too harshly since most federal student financial aid had already been distributed for the semester.
Gainful Employment Rulemaking Panel to Meet Again this Month
On October 11, 2013, the U.S. Department of Education (ED) – citing the shutdown of the federal government upon a lapse of appropriations – was forced to reschedule the second round of negotiated rulemaking for ‘gainful employment’ which would establish new regulations on vocational programs at community colleges and for-profit institutions. The session, originally slated for October 21-23rd, has now been rescheduled for November 18–20th, 2013.
Higher Ed Roundup
On Thursday, October 31st, the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee convened its second in a series of hearings related to the reauthorization of the Higher Education Act. The hearing, titled “Attaining a Quality Degree: Innovations to Improve Student Success,” focused on emerging and innovative practices in higher education that can move students to a degree, certificate, or credential more quickly or at lower cost – including flexible uses of federal student aid.
September 2013 Newsletter
New Gainful Employment Rulemaking Kicks Off with Significant Revisions
On September 11, the negotiated rulemaking panel convened by the U.S. Department of Education (ED) to consider new “gainful employment” regulations wrapped up three days of formal negotiations over the 2013 draft rules released by ED in late August. Negotiations will continue at a second session on October 21–23, after which ED will publish final rules that will become effective prior to the 2014–15 academic year.
President Obama Releases Proposal on Higher Education Reform
In late August, President Obama presented a plan aimed at reducing college costs and measuring higher education performance. The plan targets a number of areas of federal higher education policy with some new, and some old, proposals. Overall, the plan is divided into three baskets: paying for performance; promoting innovation and competition; and ensuring that student debt remains affordable.
Sequestration, Debt Limit Complicate FY 2014 Appropriations
With the October1 fiscal year deadline fast approaching, Congress must address two major hurdles in finalizing a fiscal year (FY) 2014 appropriations package. In the next couple of weeks, Congress will likely pass a short-term continuing resolution (CR) to keep the government temporarily running through October, November, and possibly December. Currently, the House is facing difficulty gaining enough votes to pass a CR based on demands from some in the Republican caucus regarding the defunding of Obamacare. While there is a desire among Republican leadership to get past this issue to avert a potential government shutdown, it still does not address the biggest hurdles for FY 2014 funding.
Higher Education Roundup
CBO Releases report on Pell Grants - In early September, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) released a new report entitled “The Federal Pell Grant Program: Recent Growth and Policy Options.” The report, which was requested by the Ranking Member of the Senate Committee on the Budget, examines the recent history of the Pell Grant program and the effect of federal policy changes. Additionally, the report assesses the fiscal and human impact of implementing additional changes to the Pell Grant program.
National Student Clearinghouse Report Suggests Most Community College Transfers Succeed - Over 60 percent of students transferring from a two-year institution go on to complete a four-year degree within six years, according to an August 6 report from the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center. Although it has long been known that community colleges play an increasingly important role for students on the way to a baccalaureate degree, the difficulties of federal data collection have prevented efforts to examine the success rates for students on this pathway.
August 2013 Newsletter
Community Colleges Submit Comments for Higher Education Act Reauthorization
On Friday, August 2, comments regarding the upcoming reauthorization of the Higher Education Act (HEA) were due to the House Committee on Education and the Workforce. The HEA governs nearly all federal higher education funding and programs, including institutional aid, federal student loans and grants, competitive grants, and disclosure and reporting requirements. It was last reauthorized in 2008. ACCT submitted joint comments with the American Association of Community Colleges on requested legislative changes to the law that would enhance the ability of community colleges to fulfill their mission and better serve our students.
Congress Passes Final Student Loan Interest Rate Fix
On Wednesday, July 31, the House passed a Senate-amended version of H.R. 1911, the Bipartisan Student Loan Certainty Act of 2013, by a vote of 392 to 31, putting an end to months of Congressional gridlock over the increase in subsidized Stafford loan rates that occurred on July 1st . The Senate had passed the bill the previous week, by a vote of 81 to 18.
Negotiators Announced for Gainful Employment Panel
Beginning September 9th, the U.S. Department of Education (ED) will proceed with a new round of negotiated rulemaking to determine the Title IV eligibility of “gainful employment” programs. Last year, a federal judge overturned major portions of the initial regulation, driving ED to rework the regulations through a new round of rulemaking.
Senate Holds Markup on WIA Reauthorization
At the end of July, the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee held a markup on S. 1356, the Workforce Investment Act of 2013. The bill reauthorizes the Workforce Investment Act (WIA), which has been overdue for reauthorization for a decade. S. 1356 is a bipartisan counter to the House-passed Supporting Knowledge and Investing in Lifelong Skills (SKILLS) Act.
Senate Proceeds with FY 2014 Education Funding Bill
With relatively few legislative calendar days left before the end of the fiscal year, the House and Senate will soon need to come to some type of funding agreement to keep the government running past September 30th. However, coming to an agreement may be quite contentious given vastly different topline appropriations numbers between the chambers and the complexity of sequestration. Over the summer months, the House and Senate have been separately working on drafting and marking up the 12 appropriations bills that Congress is supposed to pass annually. This includes the perennially challenging Labor, Health and Human Services and Education (LHHS-ED) appropriations bill.
July 2013 Newsletter
Rates Double, Still No End to Student Loan Interest Fight
On July 1, the interest rates on new subsidized Stafford student loans officially doubled from 3.4 to 6.8 percent. Unlike the last-minute agreement to avert the rate change last year, House and Senate negotiators let the deadline pass, and are now hoping for a deal sometime in July that will retroactively fix rates on loans issued in the interim and set new rates for future loans.
House Holds Accreditation Reform Hearing
On June 13th, the House Subcommittee on Higher Education and Workforce Training held a hearing on accreditation as part of its ongoing series of hearings on the reauthorization of the Higher Education Act.
Immigration Reform Passes U.S. Senate
On June 27th, the Senate formally passed comprehensive immigration reform, known formally as the Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act (S. 744), by a vote of 68 to 32.
ESEA Reauthorization Sees Partisan Approach in Both Chambers
The House and Senate have both considered and passed out of committee separate partisan bills to reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA). On June 13th the Senate Committee on Health Education Labor and Pensions approved a bill by Chairman Tom Harkin (D-IA) known as S. 1094, the Strengthen America Schools Act by a party line vote.
ACCT Policy Spotlight
In June, ACCT joined with Single Stop USA released a white paper entitled, “Clearing the Path to a Brighter Future: Addressing Barriers to Community College Access and Success.” The release occurred in conjunction with a briefing on Capitol Hill that highlighted the partnership between ACCT and Single Stop, as well as the several policy recommendations related to federal student aid and comprehensive student support services.
June 2013 Newsletter
Overview of Proposals on Student Loan Interest Rates
On July 1st, interest rates for new borrowers of subsidized Stafford loans are set to double to 6.8 percent barring Congressional intervention. Thus far, Congress has introduced and considered multiple bills, yet compromise remains elusive. At the core is a divide over whether to extend the current rate of 3.4 percent for a year or two, or to implement a larger fix in the near-term.
Senate Judiciary Committee Passes Comprehensive Immigration Bill Benefiting DREAM Students
On May 21st, the Senate Judiciary Committee passed bipartisan legislation known as the Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act (S. 744) championed by the Senate “Gang of Eight”. While the advancement of the bill to the Senate floor marks a significant milestone, efforts to secure comprehensive immigration reform still face challenges ahead.
Higher Ed Roundup
Over the last month there has been legislative and policy activity on a number of fronts impacting higher education and community colleges. From appropriations to regulations, it has been an active month. ACCT has provided a synopsis on several of these items.
May 2013 Newsletter
President Obama Releases FY 2014 Budget Request
On April 10th, the Administration released the President’s long-awaited fiscal year (FY) 2014 budget request. The Administration attributed the two month delay to budgeting complications associated with sequestration.
New Round of Higher Ed Negotiated Rulemaking on Pell Runners and Gainful Employment
On April 16th, the Department of Education posted a notice for a new round of negotiated rulemaking for higher education. The notice builds upon the Department’s announcement and subsequent hearings last May surrounding proposed regulations for Title IV programs. The new round will encompass issues discussed last year, as well as a redo on several departmental regulations that were struck down by the courts.
Hill Hearings Put Higher Ed Reauthorization on Center Stage
The House and Senate have started down the long road towards a Higher Education Act (HEA) reauthorization through a series of hearings examining a broad array of issues. While HEA hearings are expected to continue in the months to come, three recent hearings focusing on student aid reform and transparency highlighted priorities for a number of committee members.
April 2013 Newsletter
House and Senate Budget Resolutions Demonstrate Fundamental Differences
This year, the Senate has shown a renewed interest in pursuing a budget resolution under the leadership of new Budget Committee Chair, Patty Murray (D-WA). For the first time in several years, both the House and Senate have passed a budget resolution, albeit not a joint resolution.
House Tackles Workforce Investment Act Reauthorization
The long over-due reauthorization of the Workforce Investment Act (WIA) took another step forward last month with the passage of a House reform package. While the partisan bill faces dim prospects in the Senate, it does signal renewed interest in updating the federal workforce system.
FY 2013 Funding Agreement Solidifies Sequestration for Now
With a spark of bipartisanship, the House and Senate completed work on their fiscal year (FY) 2013 funding bills before the expiration deadline. H.R. 933, the Department of Defense, Military Construction and Veterans Affairs, and Full-Year Continuing Appropriations Act, 2013 will provide funding to keep the government operational through the remainder of the fiscal year.
Gainful Employment Regulations Face Another Legal Setback
The ongoing legal action surrounding ‘gainful employment’ regulations continue to be of keen interest for the community college sector. In March, a federal District Court made yet another ruling jeopardizing the Department of Education’s ability to proceed with gainful employment data collection and enforcement.
ACCT Policy Spotlight
In March, the University Professional & Continuing Education Association, WCET, and the Sloan Consortium conducted a survey to examine the impact of state authorizations on distance learning programs. Of the approximately 200 institutions surveyed, one-third had not applied for the required state authorizations. Other institutions had chosen not to proceed in offering programs in states with costly or complex authorizations. Follow this link to view the survey: What are Institutions Doing (or Not Doing) About State Authorization – Revisited.
March 2013 Newsletter
The Impact of Sequester on Community Colleges
On March 1st, President Obama signed an order to institute across-the-board funding cuts as mandated by the Budget Control Act of 2011. The cuts, which were initially supposed to occur on January 2nd, were the result of a failure by Congress and the Administration to come to an agreement to reduce the deficit by $1.2 trillion.
House Moving Forward With Reauthorization of WIA
Democratic and Republican Members of the House Education and Workforce Committee have offered competing bills that would reauthorize the Workforce Investment Act (WIA). The Republican bill (HR 803), known as the Supporting Knowledge and Investing in Lifelong Skills (SKILLS) Act, was marked up this week by the full committee.
Reinstatement of Ability-to-Benefit Remains a Priority for Community Colleges
As Congress works to extend fiscal year 2013 funding prior to the expiration of the current continuing resolution (CR) on March 27th, the inclusion of a partial restoration of Ability-to-Benefit is still under consideration in the Senate. ACCT has prepared a letter for individuals to ask their Member of Congress to reinstate partial Ability-to-Benefit eligibility.
Congress Must Address Expiring Funding in the Month Ahead
With current fiscal year (FY) 2013 funding expiring on March 27th, Congress will have to act quickly to come to an agreement on a continuing resolution (CR). The House has acted first in this endeavor, with the Senate likely taking up their own version of a CR in the next week or two.
January 2013 Newsletter
What the Fiscal Cliff Deal Means for Higher Ed
On January 1st Congress passed legislation to avert tax increases for millions of Americans and delay automatic spending cuts. This deal has many implications for higher education and students.
What’s on Tap for Community Colleges in the 113th Congress
The new Congress will have to address several pending reauthorization bills, as well as some new ones. Additionally, they will face the task of dealing with an impending sequestration, reaching the debt-limit, and both fiscal year (FY) 2013 and 2014 funding.
House and Senate Name Committee Chairs and Members
The 113th Congress has convened, and individual committee assignments have been doled out. While many members will be returning to higher education’s key committees, several new names have emerged as well.
December 2012 Newsletter
Fiscal Cliff Drawing Near with No Deal in Sight
A deal remains elusive with a mere 27 days before the nation faces the fiscal cliff. Without congressional action, the Bush-era tax credits will expire at the end of the year, and two days later automatic spending cuts under sequestration will occur.
AOTC and Other Higher Ed Tax Credits Among Those Set to Expire
Among the tax-credits set to expire at the end of the year are several higher education tax credits, including the American Opportunity Tax Credit (AOTC).
Committee Leadership Begins to Come Together for the 113th Congress
With only a handful of days left in the current Congressional session, announcements are being made in regards to what individuals will be leading committees for the 113th Congress. While many familiar faces will be returning, retirements, term-limits and lost races have teed up new leadership for some key committees.
House and Senate Release Calendars for the 113th Congress
The House and Senate have both released their upcoming calendars for the 113th Congress. Both bodies will convene on January 3rd to swear-in Members for the upcoming session, with the Presidential Inauguration occurring on January 21st.
November 2012 Newsletter
Community College Outlook in Obama's Second-Term
During the campaign President Obama vocalized strong support for community colleges as an essential part of our education and workforce system. In October, the President released a booklet outlining his second-term agenda entitled the “Blueprint for America’s Future.”
Election Results in House and Senate
The Democrats retained control of the Senate on Tuesday with a ratio of 53 to 45 with 2 independents. There were many hotly contested races in both bodies that have impact outside of just majority control.
Congress Faces Challenging Agenda for Lame-Duck
The returning lame-duck Congress faces a substantial task before the end of the year in addressing the expiring Bush-era tax cuts, as well as an impending sequestration set to cut many federal programs by more than 8 percent.
October 2012 Newsletter
ACCT Delivers Federal Update
In preparation for the 2012 ACCT Leadership Congress occurring next week in Boston, ACCT Public Policy Office has prepared a comprehensive update on recent legislative activities in our nation’s capital.
OMB Releases More Details on Sequestration
On January 2nd most federal programs are slated to bear significant across-the-board reductions under a process known as sequestration. The sequester is part of the bipartisan August 2011 Budget Control Act, which raised the nation’s debt limit in exchange for a series of spending cuts.
New Estimates for Pell May Put Program on Firmer Ground
The U.S. Department of Education has released preliminary data regarding the cost of the Pell Grant program for the most recent academic year. While enrollment has gone up slightly, program costs have actually decreased.
Obama vs. Romney - What the Candidates’ Plans Outline for Higher Education
With one month to go before elections, both Presidential candidates have presented their vision for higher education policy and reform. Similarities exist in both platforms where the candidates advocate for better information, allowing students and their families can make informed choices on where to attend college and how to pay for it.
Congress Passes Continuing Resolution, Punts Funding Debate into New Year
Congress has opted to pass a six-month extension, H.J. Res. 117, to keep the federal government funded well into the New Year.
September 2012 Newsletter
Congress Agrees to Deal on Funding Extension
With only a handful of days left on the legislative calendar before November elections, the House and Senate have agreed to a deal to extend funding well into the New Year. By doing so, Congress will avert any last minute funding showdown or government shutdown right before the elections.
Obama vs. Romney - What the Candidates’ Plans Outline for Higher Education
With two months to go before elections, both Presidential candidates have presented their vision for higher education policy and reform. Similarities exist in both platforms where the candidates advocate for better information so students and their families can make informed choices on where to attend college and how to pay for it. Additionally, both candidates support the idea of working to keep tuition fees and costs more manageable through incentives.
Deadlines Approaching for Congress to Address Sequestration
Looming on January 2nd, 2013 is a significant across the board cut of most federal discretionary programs set into place by the Budget Control Act. Last fall, the “Super Committee” was appointed to develop a plan that would find $1.2 trillion in revenue either through spending cuts or changes in tax code. Their inability to put forth a plan triggered automatic spending cuts known as sequestration. Barring Congressional action to prevent sequestration, an across-the-board cut to discretionary spending will occur in January, 2013.
Fate of Expiring Education Tax Benefits Remains Unknown
Following November’s elections, Congress will have to address a number of Bush-era tax cuts that are set to expire at the end of the year. Included in those provisions set to expire are several education related tax items. There are currently three tax extension proposals being considered by Congress —one passed by the House, one passed by the full Senate, and one approved by the Senate Finance Committee.
Dept. of Education to Create Negotiated Rule-Making Panel on Pell Runners and Streamlining Regulations
The Department of Education (ED) has announced its intent to create a negotiated rule-making panel to address the issue of student aid fraud. The panel which is expected to convene later this year will propose:
• New regulations to address organized crime rings that use distance learning programs to collect numerous Pell grants;
• New regulations related to the disbursement of federal student aid funds via debit cards and other banking; and
• Modifying and streamlining existing regulations.