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President to President

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President to President
Molly Corbett Broad's weekly email newsletter to higher education leaders.

President to President, November 28-December 2, 2011

Vol. 12, No. 44

  • Congress, Administration Ramp Up Discussion on College Cost
  • ACE Submits Brief Supporting Ohio State's Refusal to Release Student Records
  • Associations Provide Comments to ED on NACIQI Draft Recommendations
  • IN BRIEF: ED Releases Final FERPA Rules; Panel Calls for Streamlining Regulations; ACE Commission Nominations; HED Funding Opportunities in Caribbean, Philippines

The issue of college cost once again took center stage this week as the topic of a speech by Education Secretary Arne Duncan, a meeting at the White House and a House hearing.

In a speech to the Federal Student Aid conference in Las Vegas Monday, the secretary depicted rising college prices as a critical problem and called on the higher education community to "think more creatively and with much greater urgency" about college costs. He highlighted several programs at institutions that are already making serious attempts to hold down costs for students and families, including Duquesne University in Pittsburgh, which offers a 50 percent discount on tuition and fees for freshmen who enroll in the school of education; the University of Oregon, which guarantees a tuition-free education to qualified students from low-income families; and the University of Charleston (WV), which plans to cut tuition 22 percent for next year's incoming freshmen and transfer students. I know many more campuses are working on similar initiatives, and I encourage you to make sure the Education Department is aware of these very important efforts.

For the department's part, the secretary described plans to replace the expiring Perkins Loan Program with campus-based loans awarded in part on Pell Grant recipient graduation rates; incentive grants rewarding states and institutions for increasing completion rates and closing achievement gaps; and a fund to support innovative programs that hold down tuition. While we welcome a serious discussion of these plans as well as the secretary's remarks (which the Education Department says are just the beginning of a "national conversation" on the issue), we hope he is mindful that the federal government is limited in what it can do in light of state disinvestment in public higher education.

As further evidence of the administration's interest, representatives from the six presidential associations and several other higher education groups were invited to the White House Wednesday to discuss increasing productivity and reducing costs on campuses with senior staff and officials from the department. While no concrete conclusions were reached, we look forward to continuing the discussion.

Meanwhile on Capitol Hill, experts on higher education cost and affordability, along with two college presidents, testified before the House Subcommittee on Higher Education and Workforce Training on how institutions can make college more affordable. Jane Wellman, founder and executive director of the Delta Project, testified that tuitions are going up "in part to replace revenues from state/local appropriations or because of declines in gifts or endowment earnings." However, she also said there are signs that institutions are increasing productivity and that models of delivery and business efficiencies are being used to generate savings to graduate more students. To see an archived webcast of the hearing and read the testimony in full, visit the committee's website.

ACE on Wednesday filed a friend-of-the-court brief with the Ohio Supreme Court in support of The Ohio State University's (OSU) efforts to protect student privacy in dealing with a request for information from ESPN.

As you may remember, after the 2010 college football season, stories about OSU football players trading memorabilia for tattoos surfaced in the national news. These trades were in violation of National Collegiate Athletic Association rules and ultimately led to the resignation of OSU's football coach, sweeping sanctions against the football team and a flood of information requests under Ohio's public records law.

ESPN submitted multiple such requests to OSU, and the university released much of the information. However, some requests were denied because they would have forced OSU to reveal private student records in violation of the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA). ESPN responded by asking the Ohio Supreme Court to require the university to divulge the student information.

In support of OSU's position, ACE's brief emphasizes that in response to ESPN's many requests for information, the university carefully complied both with FERPA and Ohio's public records law. At an even more basic level, it is critically important that the Ohio Supreme Court recognize the impractical nature of ESPN's argument that FERPA does not require colleges and universities to protect education records. In accepting federal funds, Ohio State is bound by the terms attached to those funds, including FERPA's mandatory protection of private student records.

As part of its review of the nation's higher education accreditation system, the National Advisory Committee on Institutional Quality and Integrity (NACIQI) last October issued a draft discussion paper outlining 30 potential options for reforming the system.

ACE and a group of higher education associations submitted comments‚Äč Nov. 22 on the draft, providing a series of principles for NACIQI to take into account in making final recommendations to Secretary Arne Duncan. These include the principles that the central focus of accreditation must remain the specific mission of the institution and that the federal government should not play a role in the assessment of student learning outcomes.

The paper, based on two public hearings, written comments and committee deliberations over the past year, will help inform the committee's formal response to the secretary at the end of this year.

IN BRIEF

The Education Department today released the final revised regulations for the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA). The department released a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking for FERPA in April, citing as justification for the proposed changes its desire to promote initiatives that support the robust use of educational data in statewide longitudinal data systems. ACE responded with comments in May. We expressed concern that the rules would jeopardize important FERPA protections by expanding the number of individuals who may access personally identifiable information without consent, the basis on which they may obtain that access and the ability to re-disclose it to other parties. I will have a more detailed response to the final rules next week.

The advisory panel that advises Congress and the Education Department on student financial aid issues this week released its final report on how federal higher education regulations can be streamlined, improved or eliminated. In the report, which was required by the Higher Education Opportunity Act of 2008, the Advisory Committee on Student Financial Assistance urged Congress and the department to streamline 15 regulations identified by campus administrators as among the most burdensome. These include proration of loan limits, reporting timeframes and reporting volume and scope. The committee developed its recommendations based on hearings, review panels and a survey of campus administrators and executives.

ACE is now accepting nominations for appointments to three of its recently restructured advisory commissions: the Commission on Leadership, the Commission on Inclusion and the Commission on Lifelong Learning. While the majority of commission members will be sitting ACE member presidents or chancellors, the ACE Board of Directors has agreed the involvement of other senior leaders will ensure the process more closely models the decision-making process on campus and guarantee a wider spectrum of expertise is represented. Terms will be for three years, with the initial terms staggered to ensure smooth rotation. Click here to download the form to nominate either a colleague or yourself. Nominations are due by Dec. 5 and can be submitted to Hadja Bangura via email (hbangura@acenet.edu), or faxed to (202) 833-5696.

Higher Education for Development (HED) has issued two requests for applications for higher education partnerships focused on environmental studies in the Caribbean and job skills development in Philippines. HED expects to make one award of up to $770,500 for three years for a higher education partnership between one U.S. institution and the University of the West Indies/Centre for Resource Management and Environmental Studies. The application deadline is Feb. 22, 2012. HED also expects to make one award of up to $1,071,500 for three years for a higher education partnership between a higher education institution(s) in the United States and Southern Christian College (SCC) in Mindanao, Philippines. The application deadline for this award is Feb. 29, 2012.

Molly Corbett Broad
President of ACE