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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, May 2-6, 2011

Vol. 12, No. 16

  • ED Regulations: Round One Nearing Completion; Round Two Begins Soon
  • ACE Webinar May 17: Update on Legislation and Regulations Impacting Colleges and Universities
  • Libyan Students in U.S. Affected by Assets Freeze
  • ACE Submits Brief in Americans With Disabilities Act Case
  • House Subcommittee Approves Restoring GI Bill Fairness Act >
  • IN BRIEF: Administration Urges Campuses to Inform Students About New Health Insurance Options; ACE Fellows Program Now Accepting Applications

Congress returned from its spring recess on Monday, but our primary focus this week continued to be on the Department of Education's new Title IV program integrity regulations.

ACE and 64 higher education and accrediting organizations sent a letter April 26 to House and Senate education committee leadership requesting their help in blocking the new credit hour and state authorization rules released in October as part of the department's final package of program integrity rules. The following is an overview of our letter, along with a rundown of other recent developments:

Credit hour: We believe establishing a federal definition of a credit hour opens the door to inappropriate federal interference in core academic decisions better left to individual institutions. As a secondary matter, the definition at issue is ambiguous, and we believe the lack of effective guidance on implementation will pose serious challenges as campuses begin to review curricula to ensure compliance. The "Dear Colleague" letters the department sent in March (click here and here) do little to explain the requirements placed on accreditors; for example, the number of courses accreditors would need to review to establish compliance is unclear.

State authorization: As most of you know, the state authorization procedure as it exists now is a straightforward administrative requirement that will get very complicated when the new regulations take effect. For example, the regulation requires every state to have in place a complaint process for students, although significant questions remain in several states about whether the existing process is sufficient to meet federal requirements.

In addition, the state authorization regulation includes new requirements for distance education programs that will force many institutions to come into compliance with state policies that are often confusing, expensive and outdated. If institutions decide not to seek authorization in some states, student opportunity to participate in distance education from those institutions would be eliminated. The regulation also raises the specter of state bureaucrats interfering in curricular matters at private colleges and universities, a particular worry for religious institutions.

The department announced on April 20 that it will take a limited enforcement stance over the next three years on the distance learning portion of the state authorization rule, acknowledging the challenges facing institutions under the regulation. Some additional guidance on compliance was included in the announcement, but we are still uncertain what the final impact of the rules will be. While we appreciate the department's efforts to allow for a more reasonable compliance timetable, we remain concerned the rules that take effect on July 1 rely on a broken system.

Gainful employment: We might soon see a final version of the highly controversial "gainful employment" regulation: On Tuesday, the department announced it had sent a revised version of the regulation to the Office of Management and Budget for review, which signals a final release is imminent. As you will remember, the department issued the draft rule last summer, but has delayed release of the final rule, due in part to the unprecedented number of comments (90,000) it received. We believe it will take effect July 1, 2012.

Round two coming soon: Education Department officials announced Tuesday they plan to hold a series of public hearings and roundtable discussions in conjunction with those hearings before implementing another round of negotiated rulemaking. According to the announcement, the roundtable discussions are designed to "inform our postsecondary education policies in three key areas teacher preparation...college completion, and First in the World," a competitive grant program that President Obama's 2012 budget proposes creating to improve college completion, access and quality. If you or someone from your campus wants to participate, follow the instructions here.

The new regulations will be one of the issues we will discuss during a webinar May 17, along with other recent higher education-related developments in Washington.

The event, scheduled from 1-2:30 p.m. EDT, will feature leading experts from the national policy and higher education communities to discuss key issues impacting colleges and universities, including pending legislation and the federal budget deficit. Senior Vice President Terry Hartle and I will host and moderate the program.

We hope you or someone on your leadership team will plan to join us. For more information and to register, see the ACE website.

I am sure you have been following the violence and unrest in Libya unfolding over the past weeks. For those with Libyan students on campus, you likely are aware of the challenges created by the recent freezing of Libyan assets in the United States.

It came to our attention late this week that the Obama administration is considering unfreezing these assets, possibly for humanitarian purposes. We hope the funds will be used in part to support the approximately 2,000 Libyan nationals who are studying at American colleges and universities. Members of Congress also are aware of the uncertainty faced by students whose funding has been frozen and whose visas may require them to be sent home, and some have contacted the departments of Homeland Security, Treasury and State to share their concerns.

This situation is fast-moving, and we hope it will be resolved by the end of this month. In the meantime, I ask you to reach out to students who may be affected and consider contacting your congressional delegation to urge quick action on this issue. If you have additional questions, see www.nafsa.org/Libya or contact NAFSA: Association of International Educators directly.

ACE has submitted an amicus brief to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia supporting The George Washington University School of Medicine and Health Sciences (DC) in a case that focuses on what defines a learning disability under the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA).

The case, Carolyn Singh v. The George Washington University School of Medicine and Health Sciences, is on appeal from the District of Columbia District Court, which ruled in favor of George Washington (GW), finding Singh was not disabled under the ADA in part because of her impressive academic record prior to medical school. Singh was dismissed from medical school in March 2003 after she failed to meet the academic requirements of GW for a third time. She claims the dismissal violated the ADA because she was diagnosed with a learning disability in February 2003, shortly before her dismissal, and was entitled to accommodations.

Also signing the brief were the Association of American Medical Colleges, the Graduate Management Admission Council, the Catholic University of America (DC), Howard University (DC), and the University of the District of Columbia.

The case will be heard later this year.

The House Veterans Affairs Subcommittee on Economic Opportunity on Thursday unanimously approved the Restoring GI Bill Fairness Act of 2011 (H.R. 1383), which is designed to protect GI Bill tuition payments for students now enrolled in private colleges and universities.

The bill, introduced by Rep. Jeff Miller (R-FL), would grandfather Post-9/11 GI Bill payments for these students, protecting them from a reduction in benefits mandated by the Veterans Educational Assistance Improvements Act of 2010 passed in January. That law—intended to address shortcomings in the Post-9/11 GI Bill—replaced state-by-state caps on tuition and fee payments, based on public school costs, with a single, nationwide cap of $17,500 a year. The $17,500 cap, which takes effect Aug. 1, would result in significant reductions in benefits for some students.

The full committee is expected to vote on the legislation next week. Those of you following this issue might also be interested in the report released this week by the Government Accountability Office, which recommends enhanced guidance and collaboration with the Education Department on administering the program.

IN BRIEF

The departments of Health and Human Services and Education held a conference call April 21 to encourage colleges and universities to make use of all available resources to inform students they are eligible to remain on their parents' health care plans until age 26 if the policy covers dependent children. Secretaries Kathleen Sebelius and Arne Duncan drafted a letter to college presidents requesting help in educating students about this new policy. The two agencies have produced materials that provide students with information about retaining their health insurance after graduation or shifting from a student health plan to their parents' plan.

Do you have a rising leader on your campus who is ready to move to the next level? It's not too early to think about how the ACE Fellows Program can help build institutional capacity, nurture emerging leaders and contribute to developing "bench strength" that will prepare your institution for future challenges. Since 1965, this transformational experience has put more than 1,700 advancing leaders from all areas of institutional life on the path to senior-level campus leadership. Applications for the 2012-13 Fellows class are being accepted through Nov. 1.

Molly Corbett Broad
President of ACE