DC Shuttle …
Trump Talks About Community Colleges and Vocational Training. The Washington Postreports that President Trump had only one sentence relating to education in his State of the Union, and it was about vocational schools. Speaking at a GOP retreat after the address, he said, “We can open more vocational schools because we want every American to reach their full God-given potential.” He expanded on his comments by saying, “Today you have community colleges and all of the—when I was growing up, we had vocational schools. And when I was going to school, I remember I was in high school, and there were people in class, one person in particular, he wasn’t like the greatest student. He just wasn’t. And yet I saw him one day and he was able to fix a car blindfolded. He had a different kind of a talent. And we should have vocational schools. You learn mechanical, you learn bricklaying and carpentry. We don’t have those things anymore, and I think vocational is a much better word in a lot of cases than community college. A lot of people don’t know what community college means or represents.”
HEA Reauthorization Hearings Continue in Senate. The Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee held a its third hearing this session on reauthorizing the Higher Education Act (HEA). Committee Chair Lamar Alexander (R-TN) said that work on drafting a reauthorization bill will begin in the next few weeks. He also said he hopes the committee will mark up legislation by April. The hearing focused on accountability and risk to taxpayers, underlining the recent focus on protecting taxpayers’ investment in higher education through loans and grants. The House HEA reauthorization bill passed out of the Education and Workforce Committee in December, the PROSPER Act (H.R.4508), contains a provision on “risk-sharing.” The proposal calls for colleges to be partially responsible for its graduates’ loans that go into default. That bill was approved by the Committee on a party-line vote. The Senate Committee has said it is working to construct bipartisan legislation. Alexander laid out a framework for rewriting the HEA, issuing a white paper that calls for changes to how colleges are held accountable for the federal dollars they receive. The paper says lawmakers should start by eliminating some current requirements, including cohort default rates, the 90-10 rule and gainful employment. Alexander also asked for feedback on his framework from schools and other invested parties. Ranking Member Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA) said Alexander’s principles “would move us in the wrong direction and make it very clear we have some serious and tough issues to work through as we negotiate a comprehensive reauthorization.” Inside Higher Ed has more.
Ed Dept Releases Gainful Employment Draft. The U.S. Education Department released a draft plan for rewriting the gainful employment rule, Inside Higher Edreports. The Trump administration is considering a plan to remove the penalties that for-profit colleges and other vocational schools face under the regulation. Instead, all colleges and universities would be required to disclose debt and earnings information for each of their programs. The Education Department would no longer impose sanctions on low-performing programs at for-profit colleges and other career schools. The current rule cuts off federal funding to programs where students graduate with large amounts of debt relative to their earnings. More than 800 college programs, mostly at for-profit schools, failed the debt-to-earnings metric last year, putting their access to federal aid at risk. The draft plan retains the debt-to-earnings ratio, but programs would no longer pass or fail the metric or risk eligibility for federal funding. Instead, the Education Department would declare programs “low-performing” rather than failing. College programs whose graduates’ loan debt exceeds 8% of their total earnings and 20% of their discretionary earnings would be deemed “low-performing.” Private student loans would no longer be included as part of the debt amount under the draft plan.
Democrats Send Letter on Education Department Harassment Policy. Democrats on the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee sent a letter to Education Secretary Betsy DeVos asking her to provide them with information about her agency’s efforts to prevent workplace harassment. The request asked for details of policies and plans, as well as the costs of settlements. The request was led by Ranking Member Patty Murray (D-WA) and signed by all the Democratic members on the committee as well as Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT). They sent similar inquiries to the departments of Labor and Health and Human Services.
House Holds Hearing on Data in Education. The House Education and the Workforce Committee held a hearing on using data to shape education policy while protecting student privacy. Witnesses discussed how data could be used to further goals of student achievement. They said that advancement had been made so that data could be better used, and student information better protected. They acknowledged that student privacy laws like the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) are important to protect students’ information. EdWeek has more.
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 Feb. 5, 2018. For more information, please visit: www.newenglandcouncil.com.