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

Alexander, Bennet Introduce Higher Education Act Reauthorization Proposals

June 16-20, 2014 ~ Vol. 15, No. 21

  • ​Sens. Alexander, Bennet Introduce Higher Education Act Reauthorization Proposals
  • Administration Releases Proposed Rule for Clery Act/VAWA
  • IN BRIEF: Nonprofit Calls for Free College for All; Education Trust Proposes Tougher Performance Standards for Institutions Receiving Federal Funds; DOL Releases Rule on Increase in Minimum Wage for Federal Workers

As Congress continues to work toward new legislation to reauthorize the Higher Education Act (HEA), Sens. Lamar Alexander (R-TN) and Michael Bennet (D-CO) yesterday introduced a multi-faceted bill that would, among other provisions, simplify the 108-question Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), the rationale for which they outlined in a New York Times op-ed.

Eliminating questions and otherwise simplifying this form has long been a goal, but the question of how to redesign it to be less intimidating and time-consuming yet still useful in evaluating a family’s financial situation has been difficult to resolve. The senators propose reducing it to a postcard-sized form, which would ask two questions: household income from two years ago and current family size. Their legislation—known as the Financial Aid Simplification and Transparency (FAST) Act—also would restore year-round Pell Grants and streamline all federal grant and loan programs into, according to the senators, “one Pell Grant program, one undergraduate loan program, one graduate loan program, and one parent loan program.” Other provisions include ones to deal with over-borrowing by students and the early notification of student financial aid.

Senate Democrats are expected to release their HEA reauthorization bill in the coming weeks. The FAST Act, or a version of it, could possibly be wrapped in the larger measure as it moves along in the process. I will have more details on the HEA bill when it is introduced, but you can read a preview in yesterday’s Chronicle of Higher Education.

The Obama Administration yesterday released a proposed rule to implement changes to the Clery Act under the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act of 2013, which was signed by President Obama in March 2013.

The language for the rule was negotiated by a rulemaking panel comprised of students and representatives from advocacy organizations, law enforcement, colleges and other groups in a series of sessions held earlier this year.

Under the proposed rule, colleges would be required to compile and report statistics for incidents of dating violence, domestic violence, and stalking, in addition to the existing reporting requirements for certain other crimes, including sexual assaults. Other changes include adding gender identity and national origin as categories of bias under the Clery Act’s definition of hate crimes; requiring institutions to ensure that their disciplinary proceedings are prompt, fair and impartial; strengthening protections for victim confidentiality; and specifying requirements for programs to prevent dating violence, domestic violence, sexual assault and stalking.

The comment period on the rule is relatively brief—comments are due July 21, with the goal of publishing final regulations by Nov. 1. Because consensus was reached by the rulemaking panel, it is likely the regulations will be approved as written. We will be carefully examining the proposed changes in the coming days to determine whether they would make campuses safer or add to the confusion colleges and universities face as they seek to comply with the law.

IN BRIEF

The Education Trust released a paper Wednesday titled Tough Love: Bottom-Line Quality Standards for Colleges, which calls on the government to demand better performance from colleges and universities that receive federal funding. The authors propose an accountability system that sets benchmarks for the enrollment of low-income students, graduation rates and student loan default rates. Read more on the report in The Washington Post.

A new nonprofit this week called for the creation of federally funded, full-tuition scholarships for students at two-year and four-year colleges. Redeeming America’s Promise is led by Morley Winograd, who once served as a top adviser to former Vice President Al Gore. Read the plan here, and more about the group’s effort from Inside Higher Ed.

The Department of Labor (DOL) published a notice of proposed rulemaking in Tuesday’s Federal Register, which outlines a draft regulation implementing President Obama’s Feb. 12 executive order on Establishing a Minimum Wage for Contractors. The order raises the minimum wage to $10.10 for federal contractors beginning Jan. 1, 2015, with increases based on the consumer price index in subsequent years. The higher wage will apply to new contracts and replacements for expiring contracts, but does not apply to grants. It also permits DOL to create additional exemptions. DOL proposes exempting some student workers. Comments will be accepted through July 17.

Molly Corbett Broad
President of ACE