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

Senate Committee Holds Two HEA Reauthorization Hearings

March 24-28, 2014 ~ Vol. 15, No. 11

  • Senate HELP Committee Holds Two HEA Reauthorization Hearings
  • ACE, Others Ask ED to Extend Student Loan Reporting Requirements Deadline
  • IN BRIEF: ED Negotiated Rulemaking Panel Meets; NLRB Rules on Northwestern Union Case

Lawmakers returned to Washington this week after a week-long break, and the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor & Pensions (HELP) held two hearings as part of its work in preparation for reauthorizing the Higher Education Act (HEA), the primary law governing federal higher education programs, which expires in December. Senate Democrats may release their HEA bill in May or June, but it is unlikely a final piece of legislation will reach President Obama’s desk this year.

On Tuesday, the HELP committee looked at ways​ to ensure appropriate federal oversight of teacher preparation programs. As you may recall, there was a negotiated rulemaking session on these issues in 2012, but the Department of Education has not yet taken further action. On Thursday, the committee focused​ on how to strengthen the student loan system for borrowers. Witnesses included Roberta L. Johnson, director of student financial aid at Iowa State University and Marian Dill, director of student financial aid at Lee University (TN). Among the topics in Thursday’s hearing: how the student loan system could be streamlined while ensuring that students and their families still have multiple options to help make attending college affordable. 

These were the latest installments in a series of 12 planned HEA reauthorization hearings​ the HELP committee embarked on last fall. But keep in mind this is still near the beginning of what is likely to be a very long process. When Congress previously reauthorized the HEA in 2008 with passage of the Higher Education Opportunity Act it came five years late and after an unprecedented 14 extensions of the statutory deadline. To read our recommendations for what Congress should focus on in reauthorization this time around, click here​

An issue you may want to highlight for your registrar and financial aid director is the looming deadline for institutions to comply with new National Student Loan Data System reporting requirements. These new requirements stem from recent changes to the law that limits student eligibility for Direct Subsidized Loans to no more than 150 percent of the published length of the program in which a student is enrolled. 

ACE this week joined the American Association of Collegiate Registrars and Admissions Officers and the National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators in sending a letter​ to the Department of Education (ED) expressing concern over the looming deadlines for institutions to meet these new reporting requirements—April 14 for some changes and July 1 for the remainder—announced just Feb. 27 by ED. The letter requests an extension for institutions unable to meet the deadline. 

The letter also notes that colleges and universities are committed to complying with the requirements, approved as part of the Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act enacted in 2012, and are working diligently on updating their information systems. However, the short timeframe between the release of the final requirements and the implementation deadline creates challenges for many institutions.

IN BRIEF

The Department of Education this week convened the second of four sessions of negotiated rulemaking on topics such as state authorization, credit checks for PLUS loan borrowers and campus debit cards. The rulemaking panel will be dealing with a number of technical issues as it attempts to reach agreement on the regulations, but seems unlikely to reach a consensus. That means a full and lengthy rulemaking process is likely, with final rules likely published by Nov. 1. For more, see this Inside Higher Ed story.

No doubt many of you saw the news​ Wednesday that the regional director of the Chicago office of the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) ruled in favor of the right of a group of Northwestern University (IL) football players to unionize. The decision is disappointing, but it would not be a surprise if the full NLRB approved the ruling, given its current political makeup. However, this is just an early stage in a complicated legal issue that is likely to take a long time to play out in the courts. I will keep you posted as more developments unfold. 

Molly Corbett Broad
President of ACE
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