No Score on Ratings

DC Shuttle …

U.S. Education Department Announces Changes to Proposed Ratings System. The U.S. Education Department announced changes to the ratings system it plans to introduce this summer. In a blog post written by Deputy Under Secretary and Acting Assistant Secretary for Postsecondary Education Jamienne Studley, the department announced its plans to release “new, easy-to-use tools that will provide students with more data than ever before to compare college costs and outcomes.” Inside Higher Ed reports that the department will not create a scoring system for colleges at this time, but that the tool will feature a lot of important data, some it available for the first time. The Education Department had released a framework for the ratings system in December. Officials told Inside Higher Ed that the 11 categories of data from that framework will remain the basis of the final plan. According to the Washington Post, President Obama originally announced the ratings system idea on Aug. 22, 2013, amid some harsh criticism.

Appropriators Approve Education Funding Levels. The Senate Appropriations Committee approved the Fiscal Year 2016 (FY16) Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education and Related Agencies Appropriations Bill. The legislation would allot $65.5 billion to fund the Department of Education for FY16, a $1.7 billion cut from FY15 levels. Education Week reports that the bill would cut funding for many education programs, as well as defund 10 programs completely. It would increase funding for the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to $32 billion, up $2 billion from FY15 levels. The House Appropriations Committee approved its version of the bill, which would fund the Department of Education at a level of $64.4 billion, down $2.8 billion from FY15 levels. It would also eliminate nearly 20 programs, according to an article about the legislation from Education Week. The bill would increase funding for NIH from FY15 levels by $1.1 billion. Education Week also reported the Democrats on the House committee attempted unsuccessfully to restore funding to the Department. The Office of Management and Budget rallied against the bill, releasing a state-by-state look at the effects it would have and a breakdown of the administration’s concerns.

Senators Introduce 90/10 Bill. Senators Tom Carper (D-DE), Dick Durbin (D-IL), and Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) introduced a bill to prevent for-profit colleges from using the federal funding they receive through GI Bill benefits to count toward the 10% of their revenue required to be secured from non-federal sources. According to a joint press release from the senators, this is the third consecutive Congress in which Carper has introduced such legislation. The three senators are joined by more than two dozen cosponsors, more than in any previous year.

Education Department State Authorization to Begin July 1. The Education Department recently released a “Dear Colleague” letter to remind states, colleges and universities that staring Wednesday, July 1, 2015, institutions could lose their federal student-aid eligibility if they haven’t passed inspection by a state agency meeting federal requirements. The Chronicle of Higher Education reports that the requirement has been in place since 2011, but enforcement has been postponed to give states and institutions more time to comply.

Department Names Debt Relief Official. The Department of Education announced that is has appointed Joseph A. Smith to be a special master as the department works through the debt relief process brought on by the Corinthian College shutdown. In a post on the department’s website, Smith said, “I believe that working with all the stakeholders in this important issue, the department of course, students, people who represent them, state attorneys general and others, we can craft a fair and efficient means of giving redress to people who have been wronged.”

CFPB Sends Letter on Debt Relief Scammers. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) sent a letter to three search engine companies requesting their help in preventing student loan relief scammers from targeting borrowers. The letter was sent to Google, Bing and Yahoo, Inside Higher Ed reports

Lower Rates on Student Loans This Year. The New York Times reports that rates on undergraduate Stafford loans issued this year will fall to 4.29%, down from 4.66% last year. The change is the result of a method adopted by Congress in 2013. Other loan rates will also fall, including on graduate loans and PLUS loans.

Accreditation Meetings. The National Advisory Committee on Institution Quality and Integrity, which advises Secretary of Education Arne Duncan on accreditation matters, met last about “bright line” measures—standards which colleges must meet or face being punished by accreditors. Inside Higher Ed reports that some members advocated for the creation of the standards. The committee also discussed its draft policy recommendations on accreditation, according to Politico Morning Education. The Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA) meanwhile issued a call for a July meeting. Accreditation was the subject of a recent Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee hearing, as well as a critical Wall Street Journal article.

ESEA Reauthorization Debate Scheduled in Senate. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) officially scheduled floor debate for the bipartisan Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) reauthorization bill for next week. Education Week reports that the Senate is scheduled to debate the legislation on Tuesday, July 7. The bill, called the Every Child Achieves Act, is sponsored by HELP Committee Chair Lamar Alexander (R-TN) and Ranking Member Patty Murray (D-WA). The senators released a joint statement in response to McConnell’s announcement.

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 June 29, 2015. Founded in 1925, the New England Council is a nonpartisan alliance of businesses, academic and health institutions, and public and private organizations throughout New England formed to promote economic growth and a high quality of life in the New England region. The Council’s mission is to identify and support federal public policies and articulate the voice of its membership regionally and nationally on important issues facing New England. For more information, please visit:


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