NAICU Washington Update

Regional Meetings on HEA Implementation Begin

Leading off with a meeting at Texas Christian University (TCU), the Department of Education has conducted the first two of six regional meetings to seek the public’s views on how it should proceed with negotiated rulemaking on the new Higher Education Act. (See Week in Review, Sept. 15, 2008)

So far, the two meetings – September 19 in Fort Worth, Texas, and Sept. 29 in Providence, R.I. – have been straightforward public hearings with few ulterior motives on display by either participants or the Department of Education. In Texas, TCU president and NAICU board chair Victor Boschini, was the lead witness, serving both to welcome attendees to a beautiful new campus center, and as a "tone-setter" for the witnesses who followed.

In his remarks,Victor Boschini at Department of Education Meeting Boschini both recognized the arduous task facing the Department of Education in implementing the complex legislation, and urged other witnesses to refrain from trying to rewrite the law through the regulatory process. "The negotiated rulemaking process should not be a venue for reopening or trying to undo decisions Congress has made," he noted. "Attempts to turn these hearings from a regulatory process to a legislative process would only waste our time, since the Department does not have the authority to undo congressional decision-making."

Boschini also urged the Department to keep the rules as simple as possible, since colleges are already overwhelmed with requirements and, when the actual negotiations begin, to ensure that experts familiar with the views of independent colleges are included in the panels. He also highlighted student loan sunshine, transfer of credit, and new reporting and disclosure requirements as among the "neg-reg" issues of particular concern to private colleges. (Boschini’s full remarks are posted on the TCU Web site.)

In Rhode Island, Dan Egan, president of the Association of Independent Colleges and Universities of Rhode Island, echoed many of the comments made by Boschini, and even got a response to a proposal initially advanced at TCU. Egan repeated Boschini’s recommendation that the Department issue temporary guidance to colleges on implementing HEA provisions that have already gone into effect. Department representatives assured Egan that they were working on it, and that the temporary guidance was already over 100 pages long.