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A Look at Higher Education Bills in the House of Representatives

Posted in Higher Education News, Higher Education Policy, News from the Hill, Uncategorized

CONTRIBUTED BY
Dennis Cariello

The House of Representatives has seen a lot of action on the higher education front this year.  Not only has Committee on Education and the Workforce (Ed and Workforce) Chairman John Kline passed a number of bills out of committee that were ultimately passed by the House, but there has been a flurry of other activity in the lower chamber.  Indeed, in addition to “Expanding Opportunity in America,” a proposal put forth by Budget Chairman Paul Ryan that has a number of higher education proposals (and was discussed in our Education Alert last week), the House has seen a broad number of bills to address a host of higher education issues.

The following bills have passed the House:

Advancing Competency-Based Education Demonstration Project Act – H.R. 3136

On September 19, 2013, Representative Matt Salmon (R-AZ) introduced the Advancing Competency-Based Education Demonstration Project Act to the House. The bill passed the House on July 23, 2014 by a vote of 414 to 0, and enjoyed 10 bi-partisan co-sponsors (including Ed and Workforce Chairman John Kline and Ranking Member George Miller).  The bill would create a competency-based education initiative.  Specifically, the bill would

  • Implement competency-based education demonstration projects at up to 20 volunteer institutions.
  • For the pilot programs, allow the Secretary of Education to waive current statutory and regulatory requirements (i.e. seat time and credit hours) to receive funding
  • Require an annual evaluation of each demonstration project to determine successes and obstacles for competency-based education programs going forward.

Strengthening Transparency in Higher Education Act – H.R. 4983

On June 26, 2014, higher Education Subcommittee Chairwoman Virginia Foxx (R-NC) introduced the Strengthening Transparency in Higher Education Act to the House. The bill passed the House by a voice vote on July 23, 2014, and enjoyed 16 co-sponsors (including Reps. John Kline and George Miller). The bill would streamline higher education information disclosures and require publication of those disclosures via one College Dashboard website.

Empowering Students Through Enhanced Financial Counseling Act – H.R. 4984

On June 26, 2014, Rep. Brett Guthrie (R-KY) introduced the Empowering Students Through Enhanced Financial Counseling Act to the House. The bill passed the House on July 24, 2014 by a vote of 405-11, and enjoyed 16 co-sponsors (including Reps. John Kline and George Miller).  The bill would:

  • Ensure yearly interactive counseling for all borrowers (not just first-time borrowers) tailored to their individual borrowing circumstances. Counseling can be either online or in-person to suit the borrower’s needs.
  • Require borrowers to consent each year before receiving federal student loans.
  • Require annual counseling about Pell Grant program.
  • Create a consumer-tested, online counseling tool for institutions to act through when providing counseling.
  • Remove “sample information showing the average” from borrowing explanations, and replace with info based on the borrowers actual outstanding balance.

In addition, the following bills have also been introduced in the House: Continue Reading

More on the Higher Education Legislative Proposals from the Senate

Posted in Higher Education News, Higher Education Policy, News from the Hill

CONTRIBUTED BY
Dennis Cariello

Continuing in our series of reviews of higher education bills that may be influencing the upcoming Higher Education Act reauthorization.  Please be sure and look at the first part in our review of bills, and the Alert we distributed last week that kicked this series off.

Higher Education Reform and Opportunity Act – H.R. 4612 / S. 1904

On January 9, 2014, Senator Mike Lee (R-UT) introduced the Higher Education Reform and Opportunity Act of 2013 (Rep. Ron DeSantis (R-FL) introduced a related bill to the House on May 8, 2014.) In a move to encourage innovation, this bill would allow states – through an agreement with the Secretary of Education – to create alternative accreditation process for institutions of higher learning.  Like currently existing forms of accreditation, state-created accreditation processes would be a gateway to Title IV participation by the accredited institution.

Importantly, these new alternative accreditators could confer accredited status on, among other things, any “postsecondary education course or program offered at an institution of postsecondary education, a nonprofit organization, or a for-profit organization or business” so long as the “entity provides credit that will apply toward a postsecondary certification, credential, or degree.”  In sum, companies like StraighterLine and the various MOOCs in existence can become Title IV eligible.

CREATE Graduates Act – S. 2506

On June 19, 2014, Senator Kay Hagan (D-NC) introduced the Correctly Recognizing Educational Achievements to Empower (CREATE) Graduates Act to the Senate. The bill would:

  • Authorize grant funding to institutions that will locate and award degrees to former students in the workforce who have enough accumulated education credits for an associate’s degree, but  never received one
  • Provide outreach to students within 12 credits of obtaining an associate’s degree and implement procedures to help future students receive degree audits and other important information about graduation requirements.
  • Establish partnerships between 2-year and 4-year institutions to help students transition into a bachelor degree program after earning an associates degree.

Student Right to Know Before you Go Act – S. 915 / H.R. 1937

On May 9, 2013, Senators Ron Wyden (D-OR) and Marco Rubio (R-FL), and Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-CA), introduced the Student Right to Know Before You Go Act to both houses of Congress. The bill would provide for more accurate and complete data on student retention, graduation, and earnings outcomes at all levels of postsecondary enrollment. To accomplish this, the bill would, among other things:

  • “Replace existing IPEDS reporting requirements with a state-based and individual-level system which excludes any personally-identifiable data.”
  • Require the new data systems to match individual transcript data to post-graduation employment and earnings outcomes
  • Further support a federal Statewide Longitudinal Data System
  • Make the data system – which would be disaggregated and not include personally-identifiable data – available for research.

Creating Higher Education Affordability Necessary to Compete Economically Act – S.2374 / H.R. 4902

On May 21, 2014, Senator Mary Landrieu (D-LA) introduced the Creating Higher Education Affordability Necessary to Compete Economically Act. (Rep. Loretta Sanchez (D-CA) introduced an identical bill to the House on June 19, 2014.)  The bill would:

  • Increase maximum Federal Pell Grant for 2014-2015 academic year, and award additional Pell Grants to students who have already received the grant.
  • Raises the period in which students may receive Pell Grant funding from 12 semesters to 15 semesters.

 

Senators Harkin and Merkley Introduce “Protecting Students from Worthless Degrees Act”

Posted in Higher Education News, Higher Education Policy, Marketing and Recruiting, News from the Hill, State Authorization

CONTRIBUTED BY
Dennis Cariello

As part of our review of currently pending higher education legislation, we wanted to let you know about a recently introduced bill that was introduced after the release of our Education Services Alert last week.  On September 19, 2014, Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA), Chairman of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee, and Senator Jeff Merkley (D-OR) introduced the “Protecting Students from Worthless Degrees Act,” which is designed to “crack down on worthless degrees peddled by unscrupulous academic institutions.”  Although the bill text was not immediately available, it is likely that the bill would closely resemble a bill introduced by Senators Harkin and Merkley (and Senator Barbara Mikulski) under the same name in 2012.

In short, the bill would require that institutions offering programs that lead to licensure or the ability to sit for a licensure exam to meet the standards to allow graduates to obtain such licensure in the state in which the institution is operating – including obtaining any programmatic accreditation.  Additionally, the institution must disclose to any potential student if the program does not qualify a graudate to obtain licensure or sit for a licensure exam in a state in which the student is located.

 

Our Thoughts on the Current Higher Education Legislative Proposals

Posted in Higher Education News, Higher Education Policy, News from the Hill

CONTRIBUTED BY
Dennis Cariello

Late last week we released an Alert entitled,”Congress and the Higher Education Act: what’s on the table? What’s to come? Our look at the major proposals,” which summarizes our views on where things stand legislatively in higher education.   In it we try to do some trend spotting while summarizing the various bills out there dealing with higher education, as well as review the proposal from Budget Committee Charmian Paul Ryan, who issue a detailed paper on his proposed reforms, albeit not in formally introduced legislative language.

There is a lot out there and as you would imagine, we had to condense things a bit.  As a result, we will be releasing our somewhat longer summaries on the blog, in case you are interested. Today, we turn our attention to two Senate bills — also recently discussed by American Council on Education Senior VP for Government Relations, Terry Hartle — one from the outgoing Chairman of the Committee on Health Education Labor and Pensions (HELP) and one from the current Ranking Member of that committee – who will likely be the Chairman is the Republicans take control of the Senate.  Continue Reading

In the Tax Reform Crosshairs: The Advertising Deduction

Posted in Higher Education News, News from the Hill, Tax Issues

CONTRIBUTED BY
Dennis Cariello

Under current law, advertising costs are fully deductible as an ordinary business expense. As our DLA Piper colleagues Evan Migdail and Bruce Thompson write in a new client alert: “Both the House and Senate Tax Committee chairmen are considering proposals to limit the deduction for advertising expenses.”

As they report, Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-Montana) has released a detailed discussion draft on business tax reform which includes a proposal to limit the advertising deduction to 50 percent, with the balance amortized over 5 years.  In that proposal (see page 104),  an “advertising expenditure” is defined (starting on page 105) as any expenditure paid or incurred for the development, creation or placement of advertising, or for any similar activity with respect to advertising. “Advertising” is defined as any message or other programming material which is broadcast or otherwise transmitted, published, displayed or distributed and which promotes or markets any trade or business, service, facility or product.  Importantly, “any amounts paid to employees and contractors for performing sales functions” are excluded from the definition of advertising.

Crucially, “House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Dave Camp (R-Michigan) is said to have a similar provision in his tax reform plan – which has yet to be released – limiting the deduction to 50 percent, with the balance amortized over 10 years.”  Given the apparent agreement on this point (at this time), this proposal must be treated as serious.

It remains to be seen, however, whether certain functions – such as online lead generation – will be classified as “advertising” or whether amounts paid for lead will be classified as “amounts paid to . . . contractors for performing sales functions.”

For more, please look at the client alert.

On December 3rd, House Subcommittee to Discuss Proposals to Strengthen Pell Grant Program

Posted in Financial Aid (Loans & Grants), Higher Education News, Higher Education Policy, News from the Hill

CONTRIBUTED BY
Dennis Cariello

On Tuesday, December 3rd at 10:00 a.m. in room 2175 of the Rayburn House Office Building, the Subcommittee on Higher Education and Workforce Training, chaired by Rep. Virginia Foxx (R-NC), will hold a hearing entitled, “Keeping College Within Reach: Strengthening Pell Grants for Future Generations.”  The hearing will be webcast for those not able to attend.

The witnesses for the hearing will be:

Mr. Justin Draeger
President and CEO
National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators
Washington, D.C.

Dr. Jenna Ashley Robinson
Director of Outreach
John W. Pope Center for Higher Education Policy
Raleigh, North Carolina

Mr. Michael Dannenberg
Director of Higher Education and Education Finance Policy
The Education Trust
Washington, D.C.

Mr. Richard C. Heath
Director, Student Financial Services
Anne Arundel Community College
Arnold, Maryland

Senate Forms Task Force to Review Higher Ed Regulations and Reporting Requirements

Posted in Higher Education News, Higher Education Policy, News from the Hill

CONTRIBUTED BY
Dennis Cariello

In an statement earlier today, Senate education committee Ranking Member Senator Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), and members Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.), Richard Burr (R-N.C.), and Michael Bennet (D-Colo.) “announced the formation of a task force to examine burdens on institutions of higher education.”  The “Task Force on Government Regulation of Higher Education” will review federal regulations and reporting requirements affecting colleges and universities and “make recommendations to reduce and streamline regulations.”

The task force is to be co-chaired by Nicholas Zeppos, chancellor of Vanderbilt University, and William Kirwan, chancellor of the University System of Maryland.  It will comprise 14 college and university presidents and higher education experts. Also, the American Council on Education will provide organizational assistance.

Additional Information on the Government Shut Down from Federal Student Aid

Posted in Department of Education, Higher Education News, News from the Hill

CONTRIBUTED BY
Dennis Cariello

In our report on the budget showdown, I neglected to link to the letter from James Runcie, the COO of the Department of Education’s Office of Federal Student Aid (FSA) about the budget shutdown.  In short, much as we reported yesterday, FSA’s operations will largely continue for student and schools.  As there will be few administrative staff in DC or the regional offices, FSA officials won’t be holding an webinars or attending speaking engagements during the shut down.  Happily, as an attachment to the letter shows, most of FSA’s customer service contact centers will remain open.  The new Reach FSA voice-activated phone number (1-855-FSA-4-FAA or 1-855-372-4322) will also remain operational.

What the Budget Showdown Means for Higher Education

Posted in Department of Education, Financial Aid (Loans & Grants), Higher Education News, Higher Education Policy, News from the Hill

CONTRIBUTED BY
Dennis Cariello

Well, it’s September 30th and that means is the end of the Federal Government’s fiscal year.  Before anyone bites into the cake, however, Congress still needs to pass a new budget (or continuing resolution.  Otherwise, the government will shut down.  Happily, the Department of Education (Department) updated the playbook for when the government shuts down.

As an aside, as we are also heading to a standoff over raising the debt ceiling, I humbly suggest the Department (assuming it has staff to do) offer information on what would happen if Congress does not raise the debt ceiling (in case you are interested, the Congressional Research Service put out a number of helpful reports we highlighted earlier this year).  The lack of information when this happened two years ago caused confusion and worry among students, parents and schools over what would happen to loans and grants, among other things.

As for the shut down, the Department’s memo explains there will not be very many folks working at the Department during a shutdown:

the Department would furlough over 90 percent of its total staff level [the Department has 4,225 full and part-time employees] for the first week of such a lapse.  During this first week, we would maintain only those excepted functions related to the discharge of the duties of Presidentially-appointed, Senate-confirmed individuals; those employees charged with the protection of life and property; and, as appropriate,  the obligation, payment, and support of student financial aid as well as other authorized payments and obligations.

For a longer shutdown, “at most, a total of not more than 6 percent of the total staff would be called back” to perform “excepted activities to prevent significant damage to the underlying activity.”  In short, 212 employees will be working during the first week and, if the lapse lasts more than 1 week, 242 employees will work at some point during the shutdown [approximately 3,983 employees would be furloughed].

In higher education, loans and Pell grants will continue as normal.   Further, staff and contractors associated with these programs will continue to work, although “only skeletal program operations would continue under the ‘significant damage’ standard.”  While it’s not clear what level of loan servicing is provided for with skeletal program operations, the memo notes “student financial aid services should continue  in order to avoid the potential loss of federal assets and to maintain the delivery of student aid.”

Campus-Based aid programs, however, will not be so lucky.  Indeed, “FSA employees working in areas not directly related to Pell Grants or Direct Student Loans, such as the Campus-Based Programs of College Work-Study and Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grants, customer service activities, administrative functions not related to providing student aid to schools and students, and development of new programs or activities, would not be excepted.”  Thus, if you are awaiting funds from the government out of these programs, you will be out of luck.

In addition, as a general matter, grants awarded by the Department previously (not student aid) should continue as normal for the first week.  “For a lapse of more than a week, Department staff would be needed as excepted employees to monitor the contractors and resolve any issues.”  In addition, grants awarded by the National Institutes of Health and the National Science Foundation will also be affected.  Under contingency plans authored by the Department of Health and Human Services and the National Science Foundation, grantees working on existing grants could continue their work to the extent funds are available and grantees do not require assistance from agency staff.  Neither agency will take any actions on new grant applications or awards.

Education and Workforce Subcommittee to Hold Hearing on Vocational Education

Posted in Higher Education News, K-12 News, News from the Hill, Skills Gap

CONTRIBUTED BY
Dennis Cariello

On Friday, September 20th at 10:00 a.m. in room 2175 of the Rayburn House Office building, the Subcommittee on Early Childhood, Elementary, and Secondary Education will hold a hearing entitled, “Preparing Today’s Students for Tomorrow’s Jobs: A Discussion on Career and Technical Education and Training Programs.” The hearing will explore ways the federal government can help support state and local initiatives to improve career and technical education.  The hearing will be webcast live.  The witnesses for the hearing are:

  • Alvin Bargas, President, Pelican Chapter Associated Builders & Contractors, Inc., Baton Rouge, LA
  • Dr. Sheila Harrity, Principal, Worcester Technical High School, Worcester, MA
  • John Fischer, Dep. Commissioner, Transformation & Innovation, VT Agency of Education, Montpelier, VT
  • Frank Britt, Chief Executive Officer, Penn Foster Inc., Scranton, PA

 

Senate HELP Committee to Hold Hearing on the Higher Education Triad

Posted in Accreditor News, Department of Education, Higher Education News, Higher Education Policy, News from the Hill, State Authorization

CONTRIBUTED BY
Dennis Cariello

On Thursday, September 19, 2013, 10:00 AM in room 430 Dirksen Senate Office Building, the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions will hold a hearing — the first in a series of hearings leading up to Higher Education Act Reauthorization — entitled “The Triad: Promoting a System of Shared Responsibility.” The witnesses include:

  • Dr. Paul E. Lingenfelter, Former President, State Higher Education Executive Officers Association, Boulder, CO (Testimony)
  • Dr. Terry W. Hartle, Senior Vice President, American Council on Education, Washington, DC (Testimony)
  • Dr. Susan D. Phillips, Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs, University at Albany, SUNY, Albany, NY (Testimony)
  • Dr. Marshall A. Hill, Executive Director, National Council for State Authorization Reciprocity Agreements, Boulder, CO (Testimony)

Update: Chairman Tom Harkin and Ranking Member Lamar Alexander issues statements today as well (Harkin, Alexander 1, Alexander 2)

Education and Workforce Subcommittee to Hold Hearing on Higher Education Affordability

Posted in Higher Education News, Higher Education Policy, News from the Hill

CONTRIBUTED BY
Dennis Cariello

On Wednesday, September 18th at 10:00 a.m., in room 2175 of the Rayburn House Office Building, the Subcommittee on Higher Education and Workforce Training will hold a hearing entitled, “Keeping College Within Reach: Improving Access and Affordability through Innovative Partnerships.” The hearing will examine ways higher education institutions are taking steps to expand access and reduce costs by partnering with local employers, other colleges, or online course providers. The witnesses for this hearing are:

  • Dr. Jeffrey Docking, President, Adrian College, Adrian, Michigan
  • Ms. Paula R. Singer, President and Chief Executive Officer, Laureate Global Products and Services, Baltimore, Maryland
  • Dr. Rich Baraniuk, Professor, Rice University, Founder, Connexions, Houston, Texas
  • Dr. Charles Lee Isbell, Jr., Professor and Senior Associate Dean, College of Computing, Georgia Institute of Technology, Atlanta, Georgia

Education and Workforce Subcommittee to Hold Hearing on Higher Education Opportunities for Servicemembers and Veterans

Posted in Higher Education News, Higher Education Policy, Military Education, News from the Hill

CONTRIBUTED BY
Dennis Cariello

On Wednesday, September 11th at 12:00 p.m., in room 2175 of the Rayburn House Office Building, the Subcommittee on Higher Education and Workforce Training, chaired by Rep. Virginia Foxx (R-NC), will hold a hearing entitled, Keeping College Within Reach: Supporting Higher Education Opportunities for America’s Servicemembers and Veterans.” Wednesday’s hearing is expected to explore steps colleges and universities are taking to support American servicemembers and veterans, while also discussing best practices that might be utilized by institutions more broadly.  The witnesses are:

  • Mrs. Kimrey W. Rhinehardt, Vice President for Federal and Military Affairs, The University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, NC
  • Dr. Arthur F. Kirk, Jr., President, Saint Leo University, Saint Leo, FL
  • Dr. Russell S. Kitchner, Vice President for Regulatory and Governmental Relations, American Public University System, Charles Town, WV
  • Dr. Ken Sauer, Senior Associate Commissioner for Research and Academic Affairs, Indiana Commission for Higher Education, Indianapolis, IN

 

Education & Workforce Committee Seeking Proposals for Higher Education Act Reauthorization

Posted in Higher Education News, Higher Education Policy, News from the Hill

CONTRIBUTED BY
Dennis Cariello

On April 25, 2013, the House Committee on Education and the Workforce issued a bipartisan letter (signed by the Chairman John Kline (R-MN), Ranking Member George Miller (D-CA), and the leaders of the Subcommittee on Higher Education and Workforce Training, Chairwoman Virginia Foxx (R-NC) and Ranking Member Ruben Hinojosa (D-TX)) requesting feedback from higher education stakeholders on “policy changes and amendments to strengthen the law [the Higher Education Act].”  Specifically, the Committee is  particularly interested in examining ways to:

  • Empower students as consumers in higher education
  • Simplify and improve the student aid and loan programs
  • Increase college accessibility, affordability, and completion
  • Encourage institutions to reduce costs
  • Promote innovation to improve access to and delivery of higher education and
  • Balance the need for accountability with the burden of federal requirements.

Anyone who wishes to comment should email comments to HEA.Reauth@mail.house.gov by August 2, 2013.  In any submission, commenters are requested to cite the relevant statutory or regulatory language, detail the requested change (with proposed legislative language, if possible) and provide a rationale for the change.  It is my understanding that the comments will NOT be made public.

I have spoken with folks involved in this effort and know it to be an earnest request from the Committee – and one I’ve recommended that clients take seriously.  While hearings will be an important part of educating the Committee in advance of reauthorization, thanks to technology, higher education is moving far too quickly for that process to be useful.  Having folks that are “in the know” providing ideas to Congress will keep them better educated and will be more likely to produce a more informed (and, hopefully, more workable) reauthorization.

HELP Subcommittee Hearing on Financial Literacy on April 24, 2013

Posted in Financial Aid (Loans & Grants), Higher Education News, Higher Education Policy, News from the Hill

CONTRIBUTED BY
Dennis Cariello

On Wednesday April 24, 2013, the Senate Committee on Health, Education Labor and Pensions (HELP) Subcommittee on Children and Families will hold a hearing entitled ”The Economic Importance of Financial Literacy Education For Students.“  The hearing will be held at 2:30 PM in room 430 of the Dirksen Senate Office Building.  The witness list is after the jump.

Continue Reading

Higher Education Subcommittee Hearing on College Transparency on April 24, 2013

Posted in Higher Education News, Higher Education Policy, News from the Hill

CONTRIBUTED BY
Dennis Cariello

On April 24, 2013, at 10:00 a.m., in room 2175 of the Rayburn House Office Building, the House Education and Workforce Subcommittee on Higher Education and Workforce Training will hold a hearing to explore opportunities to enhance higher education transparency.  This hearing is entitled: “Keeping College within Reach: Enhancing Transparency for Students, Families and Taxpayers.”

This hearing comes at the heels of a number of calls for transparency in higher education, including the publication of the adminstration’s College Scorecard and the reintroduction of The Student Right to Know Before You Go Act . You can view the hearing here.  We have the witness list after the jump. Continue Reading

House Education and Workforce Subcommittee to Hold Hearing on Federal Aid Programs on April 16, 2013

Posted in Financial Aid (Loans & Grants), Higher Education News, Higher Education Policy, News from the Hill

CONTRIBUTED BY
Dennis Cariello

On April 16, 2013, at 11:00 a.m., in room 2175 of the Rayburn House Office Building, the House Committee on Education and the Workforce Subcommittee on Higher Education and Workforce Training will hold a hearing to entitled: “Keeping College Within Reach: The Role of Federal Student Aid Programs.”  This is part of a series of hearing looking at ways to keep college accessible to students. You can view the hearing here. We have the witness list after the jump.

Continue Reading

House Education and Workforce Subcommittee to Hold Field Hearing on the Link Between Education and Employment on April 9, 2013

Posted in Higher Education News, Higher Education Policy, News from the Hill, Skills Gap, Uncategorized

CONTRIBUTED BY
Dennis Cariello

On April 9, 2013, at 9:00 a.m., at the Monroe County Community College, Administration Building Room #173, located at 1555 S. Raisinville Road in Monroe, Michigan, the House Committee on Education and the Workforce Subcommittee on Higher Education and Workforce Training will hold a field hearing to entitled: “Reviving our Economy: The Role of Higher Education in Job Growth and Development.” Media interested in attending the field hearing must RSVP to Sarah Kuziomko at sarah.kuziomko@mail.house.gov.  There will be two panels of witnesses.  We have the witness list after the jump.

Continue Reading

Ed & Workforce Committee to Mark Up the SKILLS Act on March 6

Posted in Higher Education News, Higher Education Policy, News from the Hill, Workforce Investment Act

CONTRIBUTED BY
Dennis Cariello

On Wednesday, March 6 at 10:00 a.m., the U.S. House Committee on Education and the Workforce, chaired by Rep. John Kline (R-MN), will mark up the Supporting Knowledge and Investing in Lifelong Skills (SKILLS) Act (H.R. 803). The markup will take place in room 2175 of the Rayburn House Office Building.  The SKILLS Act reauthorizes the Workforce Investment Act of 1998 to create a more effective and accountable workforce development system.  The SKILLS Act was, in part, the subject of a February 26, 2013 hearing entitled “Putting America Back to Work: Reforming the Nation’s Workforce Investment System,” conducted by the Higher Education and Workforce Training Subcommittee, led by Chairwoman Virginia Foxx (R-NC).

According to a media advisory, the SKILLS Act attempts to reform the current workforce development system by:

•  Eliminating and streamlining 35 duplicative and ineffective employment and training programs.

•  Replacing the current maze of programs with a flexible Workforce Investment Fund to serve as a single source of support for employers and job seekers.

•  Strengthening the role of employers in workforce training decisions by repealing 19 federal mandates governing workforce investment board representation.

•  Establishing common performance measures for state and local leaders and requiring an independent evaluation of programs at least once every five years to improve accountability.

• Requiring local workforce investment leaders to outline the strategies they will implement to serve at-risk youth, individuals with disabilities, veterans, and other workers with unique barriers to employment.

“Students First Act” Introduced in Senate, Aims at Strengthening Enforcement at Institutions of Higher Education

Posted in Higher Education News, Higher Education Policy, News from the Hill, Program Reviews and Audits, Uncategorized

CONTRIBUTED BY
Dennis Cariello

On February 28, Senator Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ) introduced the “Students First Act” (S. 406), “A bill to amend the Higher Education Act of 1965 to provide for new program review requirements.”  The bill, which was referred to the Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP), was co-sponsored by that committee’s chairman, Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA), as well as Senators Richard “Dick” Durbin (D-IL) and John “Jay” Rockefeller (D-WV).

While the text is not currently available, a press release explains that the bill:

enhances the program review process, creating triggers that require the Department to conduct program reviews of institutions most at risk of violating federal law.  It also strengthens existing sanctions against colleges that violate requirements of federal student aid programs knowingly and willfully, and holds executives of those institutions personally accountable.

A “fact sheet” further summarizes the key provisions of the bill.  The key provisions include (1) automatic triggers to result in a program review (if an institution spends more than 20% of revenue on “recruitment and marketing” or receives more than 85% of its revenue from federal student aid sources); are (2) prioritization of program reviews for institutions based on “default rate, proportion of overall federal student aid revenue, increases in enrollment, student complaints, graduation rates, financial health, and profit margins”; (3) strengthens penalties for noncompliance (increases fines and may lower the bar for expulsion from the Title IV Program); (4) imposes personal liability on institution executives for noncompliance with Title IV; (5) and, most interestingly, “uses funds collected from penalties to provide relief to students who attended sanctioned institutions, including tuition reimbursement and loan forgiveness.”

Although all of these proposals have troubling elements (based on the summary), the last requirement is perhaps the most problematic.  It is, of course, important for the Department of Education to be able to impose a penalty for noncompliance beyond mere repayment of amounts owed to the Department.  This serves as an important deterrent.  The problem, however, is that in directing penalties be used for “tuition reimbursement and loan forgiveness,” the bill alters the interests of the Department.

As the bill summary explains, penalties will be assessed for violations of the “program integrity regulations” — which include topics such as the payment of prohibited incentive compensation (serious, yet not very common) to improper application of satisfactory academic progress rules (not uncommon) or failing to return Title IV funds for withdrawn students in a timely manner (fairly common and often clerical mistakes) — as well as “other Title IV violations.”  In sum, absent some text that significantly limits the ability of the Department to impose fines for any noncompliance, there doesn’t appear to be a violation that would not justify a penalty.  Further, with the added incentive of collecting revenue to provide student loan forgiveness for students at the penalized school, it would be surprising if fines were not far more common than they are at present.  Indeed, allowing the Department to provide loan forgiveness with funds obtaining through the imposition of penalties shifts the institutional interests of the Department away from merely guarding against waste of federal dollars by institutions of higher education.

Of course, the bill text may address these issues.  When we get the bill text we will pass it along, as I imagine there will be a number of issues addressed there that the Fact Summary is unable to cover in compete detail.  You can read the fact sheet after the jump.

Continue Reading

House Subcommittee Hearing this Thursday: “Raising the Bar: How Are Schools Measuring Teacher Performance?”

Posted in K-12 News, News from the Hill

CONTRIBUTED BY
Dennis Cariello

It’s a busy week for the House Education and Workforce Committee members.  On Thursday, February 28, at 9:00 am room 2175 of the Rayburn House Office Building, the House Subcommittee on Early Childhood, Elementary and Secondary Education, chaired by Todd Rokita, (R-IN), will hold a hearing entitled “Raising the Bar: How Are Schools Measuring Teacher Performance?“.  This is the second in a series of hearings.  On February 14, the Subcommittee held the first of its hearings in the “Raising the Bar” Series.  Witnesses for this hearing are:

Dr. Steve Cantrell, Chief Research Officer, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Washington, D.C.

Dr. Jim McIntyre, Superintendent, Knox County Schools, Knoxville, TN

Dr. Rodney Watson, Chief of Human Resources, Houston Independent School District, Houston, TX

Mr. Emanuel Harper, French Teacher, Herron High School, Indianapolis, IN

Updated: Wednesday’s School Safety Moved to 12:30

Posted in K-12 News, News from the Hill

CONTRIBUTED BY
Dennis Cariello

The time for the House Education and Workforce Committee Hearing “Protecting Students and Teachers: A Discussion on School Safety,” which will take place in room 2175 of the Rayburn House Office Building on Wednesday, February 27, has been moved from 10:00 to 12:30.  The full committee hearing, will focus on how schools can prepare and recover from threats of violence. Members will discuss faculty and student training practices, local school security needs, crisis reaction protocol, and effective post-incident recovery services.

 

Higher Education Subcommittee Hearing Today: “Putting America Back to Work: Reforming the Nation’s Workforce Investment System”

Posted in Higher Education News, News from the Hill, Skills Gap, Workforce Investment Act

CONTRIBUTED BY
Dennis Cariello

At 10:00 am today, in room 2175 of the Rayburn House Office Building, the Higher Education and Workforce Training Subcommittee. led by Chairwoman Virginia Foxx (R-NC), will hold a hearing entitled “Putting America Back to Work: Reforming the Nation’s Workforce Investment System.”  You can access the hearing video live on the committee’s website.  The hearing come on the heels of the release of a new Republican-backed bill: The Supporting Knowledge and Investing in Lifelong Skills (SKILLS) Act.

The witnesses for the hearing are:

Witnesses

Mr. Chris Hart President and CEO Workforce Florida Inc. Tallahassee, FL

Dr. Scott Ralls President North Carolina Community College System Raleigh, NC

Dr. Harry Holzer Professor of Public Policy Georgetown Public Policy Institute Washington, D.C.

Mr. Todd Gustafson Executive Director Michigan Works! Berrien-Cass-Van Buren Benton Harbor, MI

White House and Department of Education Launch the College Scorecard

Posted in Education Data & Statistics, Higher Education News, News from the Hill

CONTRIBUTED BY
David P. Lewis

As referenced in the post below, today the White House unveiled its College Scorecard.  This interactive dashboard tool allows prospective students to enter the name of a specific school and obtain a snapshot of data points about that school, including:

  • the average net price to attend (and the change in net price from 2007-2009);
  • the graduation rate;
  • the three-year loan default rate; and
  • the median amount borrowed for undergraduate study and monthly payment required to pay that amount off in ten years.

There is a place as well for reporting average earnings of former undergraduate students at a school who borrowed Federal student loans, but that information is currently unavailable (the site notes that the U.S. Department of Education is still working to provide that data).

For prospective students without a specific school in mind, the College Scorecard allows them to search for target colleges based on criteria that include area of interest (degree & major, occupation and awards offered) and type of college (location, online v. ground, campus setting, and size), and then access the same data (net price, graduation rate, etc.) for the colleges identified through the search engine.

From playing around with the tool for a few minutes, I’d say that, at best, it offers a few interesting data points although it is very superficial and not really meaningful on an individual basis (the average net price and average loan tell a student nothing about what his or her actual net price and loan amounts would be).  It certainly won’t substitute for any of the other typical resources available to students and their parents to diligence schools and programs (such as the individualized net price calculators now required on each school’s website and to which the College Scorecard links).  Of more interest will be the student outcomes data when that becomes available.

A nice review of the College Scorecard from the New America Foundation’s Higher Ed Watch blog is available here.