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Higher Education Policy Newsletter

July 2, 2019 — Lewis Burke Associates LLC

A VIEW FROM WASHINGTON

The U.S. House of Representatives passed by a vote of 226-203, a spending package for fiscal year 2020 that would fund education initiatives at the Department of Education (ED) and other federal agencies.  Included in the package was funding to keep open the National Center for College Students with Disabilities and $2 million for civics education grants under the National Defense Education Program.  On the regulatory front, there are indications that ED intends to release final regulations for Title IX in September, in addition to final regulations on accreditation and borrower repayment by the end of October.  Several higher education associations have also urged ED to clarify requirements as it relates to foreign gift reporting, an issue of heightened importance in light of concerns around foreign interference and influence in higher education.   

ED released final "gainful employment" regulations, the Title IV eligibility regulations governing certain postsecondary educational programs that prepare students for gainful employment in a recognized occupation.  The final regulations significantly water down the regulations that were originally promulgated by the Obama Administration, which sought to reduce student aid going to low-performing programs at for-profit schools.  The U.S. Treasury Department published proposed regulations related to the endowment excise tax.  The proposed regulations detail how to determine whether an institution is subject to the tax and how to determine how much it owes.  Currently, the tax applies only to private institutions of higher education. 

The House Committee on Education and Labor held the last of its five bipartisan hearings on the reauthorization of the Higher Education Act (HEA).  Details on the hearing are below.  HEA negotiations continue in the Senate, with disagreements on how to address campus safety presenting an impasse.  The possibility of a bill emerging in the Senate, a bill passing in the House, and a compromise bill emerging from those two versions grows slimmer by the day due to competing legislative priorities and an impending presidential election.  A more likely scenario is a bill focused on student aid emerging in the Senate with a partisan comprehensive HEA bill introduced in the House in the fall.  

IN THIS ISSUE

CONGRESSIONAL UPDATES AND NEWS

House Wraps Up HEA Hearings

House Science Committee Seeks to End Sexual Harassment in Academia

House Committee Advances Tax Legislation But Outlook Uncertain 

Legislative Bills of Note

ADMINISTRATION AND AGENCY UPDATES AND NEWS

ED Releases Accreditation Regulations for Final Comment

ED Extends Federal Work-Study Experiment Deadline

Education Research and Special Education Research Funding Opportunities Announced

DOL Announces $100 million in Apprenticeships Grants for Institutions of Higher Education

New Minority-Serving Institution Funding Opportunities Announced

New America Hosts Blockchain and Education Event

Mental Health Funding Opportunity Announced

2020 PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION

Sanders Releases Plan for Higher Education

FACTS AND FIGURES

New Report Shows Increased Diversity in U.S. Schools

WHAT WE'RE READING
U.S. Financial Literacy and Education Commission: Best Practices for Financial Literacy and Education at Institutions of Higher Education


CONGRESSIONAL UPDATES AND NEWS


House Wraps Up HEA Hearings

The House Committee on Education and Labor held the last of its five hearings on reauthorization of the Higher Education Act (HEA), which was focused on innovation and pathways to a college degree.  Multiple members of Congress and witnesses highlighted the growing use of dual enrollment to address costs and increase access.  Other issues discussed included competency-based education, intrusive advising, completion grants, stackable credentials, apprenticeships, and other innovations.  Committee chairman, Representative Bobby Scott (D-VA) noted, "Congress has a responsibility to explore innovative strategies that provide more students the support they need to complete college and reach their full potential.  But as we pursue new pathways for students to earn a quality degree, we cannot sacrifice our commitment to quality and equity."  While the committee has been focused on legislation related to labor, health care, and civil rights, it is possible the an HEA bill could be introduced in the fall, especially if Ranking Member Virgina Foxx (R-NC) is unwilling to compromise to produce a bipartisan bill. 

Sources and Additional Information: 

 

House Science Committee Seeks to End Sexual Harassment in Academia  

On June 12, the House Science, Space, and Technology Committee held a hearing on “Combating Sexual Harassment in Science,”  with Chairwoman Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX) remarking on the prevalence of gender and sexual harassment in the sciences.   

The hearing delved into the ongoing study by the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) on sexual harassment in STEM and federal research agency policies for grantees and interagency information sharing.  John Neumann, Managing Director of Science, Technology Assessment and Analytics at GAO, testified that the initial findings indicate a range of policies and resources across  research agencies.  He mentioned National Science Foundation’s (NSF) new terms and conditions policy for grantees to report on harassment and remarked that the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) would soon incorporate the same requirement.  Mr. Neumann added that, of the agencies reviewed, NSF, NASA, and the National Institutes of Health (NIH) provide the most detailed sexual harassment guidelines and invest in communicating the policies to stakeholders.  In contrast, policies at the Department of Energy (DOE) and Department of Agriculture (USDA) are more general and the agencies provide less instructive materials.  GAO intends to release their final report and recommendations later this year.  

Overall, the hearing reflected bipartisan support for moving the research agencies toward a more substantial and coordinated approach.  To accomplish this, Chairwoman Johnson, Ranking Member Frank Lucas (R-OK), and many others co-sponsored H.R. 36, the Combating Sexual Harassment in Science Act.  The bill would expand research on sexual harassment in STEM, call for the National Academies to develop a conduct guide, and direct the Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) to coordinate federal agency efforts to respond to and prevent harassment.  University witnesses reiterated general support for the bill and urged a clear set of uniform policies across federal agencies. 

A few weeks after the hearing, the Committee approved H.R. 36., along with amendments to expand definitions and other modifications.  While the full House may take up the bill for consideration later this summer, it is not a current priority for the Senate. 

Sources and Additional Information: 

 

House Committee Advances Tax Legislation But Outlook Uncertain 

On June 20, the House Ways and Means Committee approved the Economic Mobility Act (H.R. 3300), which among other changes, would repeal of the 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act provision that requires non-profit employee transportation benefits, such as for parking or transit, to be treated as taxable unrelated business income.  The Committee also advanced the Taxpayer Certainty and Disaster Tax Relief Act (H.R. 3301), which would extend a series of temporary tax provisions, including the above-the-line deduction for qualified tuition and related expenses.  

While the bills advanced in the committee, there is controversy, including among House Democrats, for the lack of off-sets for the costly bills. Ways and Means Committee Chairman Richard Neal (D-MA) noted he would seek other changes to cover the costs if the bills move to the House floor.  However, the bills may only serve as negotiations tools for any upcoming Senate conversations on tax extenders.  

Sources and Additional Information:  

 

Legislative Bills of Note

H.R.3334 (Rep. Kuster, D-NH) - Expanding Access to Graduate Education Act. This bill would amend the Higher Education Act to allow Pell grant recipients to use their remaining eligibility to pursue their first graduate degree. This would only be available to students who received a Pell Grant for their undergraduate education who have remaining eligibility (spent less than 12 semesters in undergrad). 

H.R. 3268S 1888 (Senator Portman, R-OH) - Go to High School, Go to College Act of 2019. This bill would authorize a pilot program to allow high school students participating in dual enrollment programs to use Pell grant funding to earn college credits. Students can earn up to two semesters of credits without drawing on their 12-semester allotment. The program also includes institution criteria which ensures that the credits earned are transferable to other higher education institutions.  

H.R.2006 (Rep. Shalala, D-FL) - College Equity Act of 2019. This bill directs the Department of Education (ED) to establish grants for institutions of higher education to conduct audits and determine the sources of inequitable acceptance practices, and graduation rates. Higher education accrediting agencies will assess the findings of the audit and assist in creating plans for improvement. ED would also create further grants to help with implementation of such changes.  

ADMINISTRATION AND AGENCY UPDATES AND NEWS

ED Releases Accreditation Regulations for Final Comment 

The Department of Education (ED) published proposed regulations on accreditation, innovation, distance education, and other topics, the result of work by a negotiated rulemaking committee that reached consensus on language earlier this year.  The regulations address state authorization requirements for distance education courses offered by institutions, revise requirements for accrediting agencies, expands licensure disclosures, change provisions for respect of religious mission, among other changes.  In a press release accompanying the publication of the proposed regulations, U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos stated, "With these reforms, our nation's colleges and universities can spend more time and effort on serving students and less time, energy, and money focused on bureaucratic compliance. At the Department, we will ensure that accreditation demonstrates a college or university is effectively serving students in accordance with its unique mission, including religious mission, rather than that it has simply filled out enough paperwork."     

ED will accept public comments on the proposed regulations until July 12, 2019.  For the regulations to take effect on July 1, 2020, the final rule must be published in the Federal Register by November 1, 2019. 

Sources and Additional Information: 

ED Extends Federal Work-Study Experiment Deadline

To allow more time for institutions to submit a letter of interest for participation in the Federal Work-Study (FWS) experiment, which was announced on May 20, the Department of Education is extending the date by which institutions may submit their letter of interest through September 23, 2019. ED will also conduct a webinar on Thursday, July 11, 2019 from 1:30pm – 3:00pm Eastern time for institutions interested in applying for the FWS experiment.  The webinar will provide more information about the experiment, its regulatory exemptions, the application and selection process, and allow institutions to ask questions about the experiment.

Sources and Additional Information: 

Education Research and Special Education Research Funding Opportunities Announced 

The U.S. Department of Education’s (ED) Institute of Education Sciences (IES) has announced its fiscal year (FY) 2020 competitions for education research and special education research.  The new funding notice explains that these awards will “provide national leadership in expanding knowledge and understanding of (1) developmental and school readiness outcomes for infants and toddlers with or at risk for a disability, (2) education outcomes for all learners from early childhood education through postsecondary and adult education, and (3) employment and wage outcomes when relevant (such as for those engaged in career and technical, postsecondary, or adult education).”  

IES, through the National Center for Education Research (NCER) and the National Center for Special Education Research (NCSER), plans to host eight competitions in FY 2020 that address a range of relevant topic areas, including research related to education technology and STEM education, two topics of high interest to policymakers and agency officials. Career and Technical Education, which aligns with the Trump Administration’s priorities, remains a topic area of focus.  While much of the funding call mimics last year’s topics and priorities, the FY 2020 notice introduces two new competitions focused on exploring systematic replication of findings in education and special education research.  IES Director Mark Schneider shared his thoughts on this new competition on his blog.  

Application deadlines range from August 29, 2019 through September 26, 2019. Further details are available in the full Lewis-Burke analysis linked below. 

Sources and Additional Information: 

 

DOL Announces $100 million in Apprenticeships Grants for Institutions of Higher Education  

The Department of Labor (DOL) Employment and Training Administration (ETA) recently released a funding opportunity announcement to support closing the skills gaps in the American workforce.  The grant aims to expand and promote apprenticeships to sectors that do not traditionally utilize apprenticeships, promote the expansion of apprenticeships, and increase apprenticeship opportunities.  The notice states that this grant program will award funds to “an apprenticeship partnership of public and private sector entities which together seek to develop and implement new apprenticeship models; or expand an existing apprenticeship program to a new industry sector or occupation, a new population, on a local/regional, statewide, or national scale.”  Applicants may choose to expand apprenticeships in an industry in which DOL has certified H-1B visas for occupations.  Examples include, “information technology (IT) and IT-related industries, healthcare, advanced manufacturing."  DOL is particularly interested in expanding apprenticeships in cybersecurity and AI.  This opportunity follows the 2018 “Scaling Apprenticeship Through Sector-Based Strategies” funding opportunity that awarded $183.8 million to institutions of higher education.  The deadline to apply is September 24, 2019. 

Sources and Additional Information: 

 

New Minority-Serving Institution Funding Opportunities Announced  

The Department of Education (ED) recently announced new competitions for the Promoting Postbaccalaureate Opportunities for Hispanic Americans (PPOHA) program and the Minority Science and Engineering Improvement Program (MSEIP).  The PPOHA program, which is eligible for designated Hispanic-Serving Institutions (HSIs), aims to improve the academic attainment of Hispanic college students, as well as expand and improve the quality of postbaccalaureate programs offered to Hispanic college students.  This competition prioritizes projects that collaborate with other institutions of higher education, projects that support instruction in building personal financial understanding and responsibility, and proposals to promote the development of Professional Science Master’s degrees that include industry-recognized certifications. The deadline for PPOHA applications is July 26, 2019.  

The MSEIP program supports institutions with over 50 percent minority student enrollment with up to three-year grants aimed at increasing underrepresented minorities in science and engineering programs.  The fiscal year (FY) 2019 competition is currently open with applications due by July 19, 2019.  

Sources and Additional Information:  

 

New America Hosts Blockchain and Education Event 

On June 19, New America, a Washington, DC-based think tank, and the Department of Education (ED) held an event focused on the use of blockchain in education.  The discussion was led with four main challenges: 

  • What data should be used in developing blockchain for education? 

  • How can students carry and access their educational data throughout their lifetimes? 

  • How blockchain ensure data privacy and security? 

  • Would the use of blockchain in education increase social mobility? 

Discussion with the audience included recommendations to use modular standards to increase trust in blockchain, examining the education blockchain systems in other countries, and integrating governmental activities to apply blockchain on a societal level. 

Using this event as a launchpad, ED intends to conduct a deep dive into education blockchain solutions, including verifying credentials, ensuring the effectiveness of apprenticeships, and tracking the efficacy of curricula.  While efforts are still in the earliest stages, ED plans to develop strategies of how to best use blockchain solutions in education in the coming months. 

 

Mental Health Funding Opportunity Announced

The Department of Education announced a Mental Health Service Professional Demonstration Grant program funding opportunity, which will provide grants to high-need local educational agencies (LEAs) working in partnership with institutions of higher education.  The grants will go to support and demonstrate innovative partnerships to train school-based mental health providers for employment in schools and LEAs.  The goal of this program is to expand the pipeline of high-quality, trained providers to address the shortage of mental health professionals.  Applications are due by August 5, 2019. 

Sources and Additional Information:  


2020 PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION

Sanders Releases Plan for Higher Education

Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) is the most recent of the Democratic presidential candidates to release their full higher education platform. Building on his 2016 platform, the plan includes universally free two- and four- year public institutions and the complete elimination of all currently held student debt.  It also includes expanding Pell grants to cover the non-tuition aspects of attendance and tripling the amount of funding for Federal Work-Study.  He hopes to spur state spending on higher education by matching funding for educational improvement. The debt elimination will be paid for by adding a Wall Street speculation tax on stock, bond, and derivative trades.  Sanders’ plan differs from other progressive candidates like Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) in his support for universal debt elimination rather than means-tested assistance. 


FACTS AND FIGURES


New Report Shows Increased Diversity in U.S. Schools

"Looking at higher education, between 2000 and 2016, the largest changes in the racial/ethnic composition of undergraduate students were for White students and Hispanic students. The share of undergraduates who were White decreased from 70 to 56 percent, and the share who were Hispanic increased from 10 to 19 percent."

Source: https://ies.ed.gov/blogs/nces/post/new-report-shows-increased-diversity-in-u-s-schools-disparities-in-outcomes


WHAT WE'RE READING

U.S. Financial Literacy and Education Commission: Best Practices for Financial Literacy and Education at Institutions of Higher Education 

“Along with preparing the workforce, institutions of higher education can prepare their students to make financial choices throughout their lives that enable them to effectively participate in our economy, build wealth, and attain their goals. Critical decisions that students and families make before, during, and after their postsecondary education influence their financial future. These include choices around selecting an institution and degree, managing money while studying, planning for the completion of their education, and managing student debt post-completion.” 

Sourcehttps://home.treasury.gov/system/files/136/Best-Practices-for-Financial-Literacy-and-Education-at-Institutions-of-Higher-Education2019.pdf 

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