A Forum for DeVos

DC Shuttle …

Confirmation Hearing for Betsy DeVos. The Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee planned to begin its confirmation hearing for Betsy DeVos, the nomination for secretary of education on Jan. 17. The hearing was originally scheduled for the previouss week but was delayed over concerns that an ethics review had not been completed. Democrats criticized Republican leaders in the Senate for scheduling confirmation hearings before the ethics reviews are completed. Democrats have raised concerns with DeVos’s support for school choice and will likely make that a focus of their opposition. They have also raised concerns with her political contributions. Senate Democrats are seeking to extend the five minutes they will be allowed to question DeVos during her confirmation hearing. Chair Lamar Alexander (R-TN) said he would stick to the committee’s standard of holding one round of questions, unlike other confirmation hearings that have allowing multiple rounds. Politico outlined in an article some issues that will likely be discussed during the hearing.

Ed Department Releases Gainful Employment Data. The U.S. Education Department released data regarding vocational programs under its gainful employment rule, along with a press release summarizing the conclusions. The findings identify for-profit programs for failing to meet the standards and could lead to more for-profit institutions losing federal funding.  The 2014 rule requires vocational programs to ensure that their average graduate’s loan payment is no more than 8% of his or her total annual earnings, or 20% of his or her discretionary income. More than 2,000 programs violated the gainful employment standard. While for-profits made up about two-thirds of the programs rated, they were 98% of the failing programs, according to the Education Department. Of the nearly 8,700 programs that were large enough for data to be collected, no community college failed the rule’s accountability metric, according to the department. Read more in the Washington Post, Inside Higher Ed, and The Chronicle of Higher Education.

Supreme Court Hears Case on Students with Disabilities. The Supreme Court heard oral arguments in a case about the core requirements of the education law known as the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. The ruling could shape how much education public schools must provide for disabled students. A group of 188 lawmakers has written the court arguing that it should overturn lower rulings. In the case, U.S. Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit has upheld the ruling that the school district provided a student with disabilities with a minimal education benefit, and should not be responsible for paying for the student to attend a different school. The family contends that the school district did not meet the minimum requirement for education, and has the support of some lawmakers and the administration. The Supreme Court is expected to decide the case before the current term ends in June.

ED Announces Debt Relief for ACI Students. The U.S. Department of Education announced that it will grant borrower defense relief for federal student loan borrowers who attended the now-defunct American Career Institute (ACI) in Massachusetts. The department said that its investigation found that the school “made false and misleading representations to students, misstated job placement rates and employed instructors who were unauthorized to teach under applicable state laws.” Any existing federal loans incurred as a result of enrolling at ACI will be automatically discharged. Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey won a judgment against ACI in June that forced the company to admit to fabricating records and lying about graduation and job placement rates. Read more in the Washington Post.

Under Secretary Ted Mitchell Gives Final Remarks. At a New England Council and Northeastern University event last week, U.S. Under Secretary of Education Ted Mitchell gave his final remarks while serving at the Department of Education. Mitchell focused on innovation in higher education and the need to move quickly to address changes in the workforce. Her also focused on how these changes can serve all students and how universities and the government can strive to attain equity. Read more in Inside Higher Ed.

We publish the DC Shuttle each week featuring higher ed news from Washington collected by the New England Council, of which NEBHE is a member. This edition is drawn from the Higher Education Update in the Council’s Weekly Washington Report of Jan. 17, 2017. For more information, please visit: www.newenglandcouncil.com.


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