NAICU Washington Update

Neg-reg Sessions Conclude

May 31, 2009

The negotiated rule-making process to craft regulations for student aid provisions in the new Higher Education Opportunity Act came to end in May. Five teams had been meeting since February to review and reach agreement on issues related to federal student loans and grants, accreditation, and a variety of new reporting requirements.

The teams on loans and accreditation did reached consensus on their provisions, and the results of their efforts will be published as Notices of Proposed Rule-Making (NPRMs) in the Federal Register once the Department of Education completes final edits. The draft regulations will be open for public comment for either 30 or 60 days, with the department aiming for publication of final regulations by November 1, becoming effective July 1, 2010.  Members of teams unable to reach consensus are permitted to comment negatively about the draft regulations, while those on teams reaching consensus may not.

A team looking at new reporting requirements and changes in aid programs, and a separate team on outreach weren't able to reach consensus, meaning that the department is now free to rewrite any provisions considered by those teams -- even if the reason for lack of consensus may have been a single issue. In many cases, though, the department will likely leave agreed-upon sections untouched.

Within the team addressing reporting requirements on year-round Pell Grants, two issues that were initially viewed as noncontroversial proved to be roadblocks.  First, the department differed with public sector representatives on including certain part-time students in the definition of students considered as "accelerating" their time to degree, and thus being eligible for an additional Pell award.

Second, on the same team, NAICU representatives and others from the traditional sector were adamant in opposing a last-minute department requirement. That disclosure requirement on employment and further education of graduates would have led to more tightly drawn reports. The more general disclosure requirements that grew out of lengthy negotiations with Congress were intended to be illustrative of post-graduation activities, not detailed reports. The department's proposed language not only was inconsistent with congressional intent, but also would have greatly increased the information-collecting burden on institutions.

MORE News from NAICU