NAICU Washington Update

Institutions Invited to Apply to Participate in Experimental Sites Initiative

August 05, 2014

The Secretary of Education has issued an invitation to institutions that participate in Title IV programs to apply to participate in a new Experimental Sites Initiative (ESI). Under the ESI, institutions are granted waivers from certain requirements for administering Title IV programs, in order to test new methods of providing aid. This round of sites is focused on President Obama’s goal of making college more affordable.

Four types of experimental sites will be set up to remove barriers to innovation, new technology, and alternative approaches to teaching and learning that could improve students’ academic outcomes:

  1. Prior Learning Assessment: This would allow costs for assessments of prior learning, and in some cases the cost to prepare materials for such assessments, to be included in a student’s cost of attendance.
  2. Competency-Based Education: This provides flexibility in providing federal student aid to students in self-paced competency-based education programs.
  3. Limited Direct Assessment: This provides flexibility to provide a mix of direct assessment coursework and credit or clock hour coursework in the same program.
  4. Federal Work Study (FWS): This would allow institutions to compensate FWS students as “near-peer” counselors to high schools students, solely with federal funds.

Letters of application must be received by the Department of Education no later than September 29, 2014. Institutions chosen for the sites will be expected to provide significant information about their experiments, including, in some cases, control groups of students. The Secretary plans to select a diverse cross-section of institutions and encouraged applicants to include high-need, working, and adult students in their proposals. Also considered in selecting institutions will be “evidence of programmatic compliance, cohort default rates, financial responsibility ratios, and, for for-profit institutions, “90/10” funding levels.”

Ideas solicited by the Department of Education last December helped in developing the experimental site concepts. For more details on the requirements of each of the four experimental sites and instructions for submitting letters of application, see the Federal Register.

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