NAICU Washington Update

NAICU Well-represented at Department Roundtables, Neg Reg Hearings

June 14, 2011

With just a few weeks notice, the Department of Education held roundtable discussions and negotiated rulemaking hearings in four cities around the country in May.  Despite the last-minute nature of the meetings, NAICU was represented at all but one of the 15 sessions, thanks to the strong support of the NAICUSE state executive network.

The Department made an unanticipated announcement in late April of plans to hold the roundtable discussions on programs the Obama administration potentially wanted to advance, along with three formal negotiated rulemaking sessions.  At the time, it was unclear whether the voice of independent higher education would be heard.  However, the quick action and high energy of the state executives in Tennessee, Washington state, Illinois, and South Carolina, made it possible for NAICU representatives to participate at almost all sessions - to testify at the hearings and be part of the roundtables.  At some sessions, the NAICU representative was among a handful of witnesses who appeared.

Principal among NAICU's goals at the hearings was to formally ask the Department to include the new state authorization rule and definition of credit hour in any future rulemaking sessions - with the expressed purposed of rescinding the rule.  The Department never officially responded to the proposal.  Still, NAICU's main purpose in making the request was to make such a step technically possible, should the Department come to appreciate the havoc the two new rules are wreaking in academia.  Absent a formal request, adding this request to any upcoming rulemaking session could be seen as out of line with established procedures.

The NAICU representatives' contribution was more positive and participatory at the roundtable sessions -especially the ones on the President's 2020 initiative. At those sessions, NAICU firmly endorsed the administration's proposal to create a FIPSE fund to expand successful local college completion programs - programs like those highlighted in NAICU's Building Blocks to 2020 initiative.  The association also supported the voluntary participation by private, non-profit colleges in proposed state-based completion initiatives as discussed in a second set of roundtables.

The third set of college completion roundtables addressed some of the more controversial ideas on teacher education and evaluation supported by the administration.  These concepts center on using student assessments on standardized test to judge individual teacher competency and then, in turn, using the teacher scores to judge teacher education quality at the colleges the teachers attended.  In addition to NAICU, the American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education (AACTE) sent a number of representatives to these sessions to express concerns about the narrow methods being used to judge both teachers and teacher education programs.

Among the state executives representing NAICU at these meetings were Claude Pressnell (Tennessee), Violet Boyer (Washington), Dave Tretter (Illinois), and Mike LeFever (South Carolina). Other state association staff likewise participated. Paul Frank, of the Federation of Independent Illinois Colleges and Universities, led a delegation of private college representatives to the forum in Chicago. Similarly, Diane Berty and Patrick Meldrin of the Tennessee Independent Colleges and Universities Association, represented independent colleges around the country at the Tennessee round-tables.

Randy Lowry, president, Lipscomb University, represented NAICU on the 2020 roundtable in Tennessee, and Paul Chewning, president, Appalachian College Association, represented the independent college sector on the same panel in South Carolina.

Other NAICU-member college officials representing private nonprofit colleges at various meetings included John Beckford, vice president of academic affairs and dean, Furman University, who made the case against the credit hour and state authorization regulations in South Carolina; and Kay Soltis, director of financial aid at Pacific Lutheran University, and Frank Kline, associate dean of education at Seattle Pacific University, attended Washington's roundtable.

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