Feds to Step Up Reviews of Higher Ed Accreditors

DC Shuttle …

Education Under Secretary Announces Changes. The U.S. Department of Education Under Secretary Ted Mitchell posted two important blog posts on the department’s website. One of the posts announced a new student loan servicing and repayment system that would streamline the loan process and allow borrowers to access all the necessary information via a single web portal while enhancing customer service and accountability. The other post announced that the department would be stepping up its reviews of higher education accreditors, by enhancing the fact-finding process it does when accreditors apply for recognition or come up for review. The post comes as some accreditors have come under fire after for-profit schools including Corinthian Colleges were forced out of business.

Groups File Lawsuit Against Department of Education. The American Civil Liberties Union and the National Consumer Law Center filed a lawsuit against the Department of Education. The suit asks the court to force the department to turn over documents that show how it collects student loan debt from borrowers who are in default. The groups say that the department failed to appropriately respond to Freedom of Information requests for the information, while the department says it does not necessarily even collect all the information the groups are seeking. Inside Higher Education has more about the lawsuit.

Senators Introduce Educator Professional Development Bill. A bipartisan group of senators introduced the Elevating Educator Preparation through Innovation Act. The bill is intended to improve professional development programs and opportunities for teachers in high-need districts. It would allow schools and districts greater flexibility and autonomy in educator preparation and professional development opportunities.

Complications Arise with Student Loan Repayment Program. The Washington Post reported on complications with the government’s Revised Pay As You Earn, or REPAYE, program. The program was rolled out almost four years ago, and allows borrowers with direct federal student loans to cap their monthly payments at 10% of their income, and forgives loans after 20 years. However, the Post reported that borrowers have had difficulty enrolling in the program. Most of the issues are not with the government directly, but rather with the companies who service the loans. The Post article quoted a student loan attorney who said “[REPAYE] seems to have caught servicers off guard. They don’t seem to be prepared to deal with it in any way that makes sense or is working well.”

This Week In ESSA: Negotiated Rulemaking Continues. Rulemakers met for the second round of negotiated rulemaking for the Every Student Succeeds Act. Several topics were covered during the rulemaking session including computer-adaptive tests and supplement not supplant rules, which ensure that federal Title I funds are used to supplement state and district funding, not to replace it. The panel will meet again later in April. Just before the rulemaking session began, the National Governors Association sent a letter to the Department of Education urging rulemakers not to define key terms in the law such as “equity.” The group says in the letter that Congress intended for states and districts to define those terms for themselves.

This Week in ESSA: Senators Send Letter on “Homework Gap” Rules. Senators Angus King (I-ME) and Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV) sent a letter to Secretary of Education John King regarding the Every Student Succeeds Act and the “homework gap.” The homework gap, which refers to the gap in resources between students who do and do not have access to the internet at home, was the focus of a bill the two senators introduced last year. Many components of that bill were included as amendments to ESSA, and the senators asked Secretary King to ensure that the homework gap was appropriately addressed in the department’s rulemaking process for ESSA.

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 April 11, 2016. For more information, please visit: www.newenglandcouncil.com.


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