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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 23-27, 2011

Vol. 12, No. 19

  • New FERPA Rules May Unravel Student Privacy Protections
  • NCES to Release College Cost Lists
  • House Passes Restoring GI Bill Fairness Act of 2011
  • IN BRIEF: House Democrats Urge Maintaining Pell Grant Maximum Award; Academically Adrift Webinar Scheduled for June 15; American College President Survey Opens Next Week; Gretchen Bataille and Patti Peterson Join ACE; Education Writers Association Seeks Campus Host for National Seminar

It was relatively quiet on the higher education front in Washington this week, with Congress focused on passing reauthorization bills for the nation's intelligence agencies, the Federal Aviation Administration and the Patriot Act. In addition, the Senate on Wednesday voted down the House's FY 2012 budget plan, which included massive cuts in student aid. However, I do have a few issues to discuss, along with some announcements about upcoming ACE activities, including details on our webinar next month with the authors of Academically Adrift.

ACE and a group of higher education associations sent comments Monday to the Department of Education on its plan to revise regulations governing the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA).

The department released a notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM) for FERPA on April 8, 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. The 2009 economic stimulus bill conditioned receipt of some funds on state efforts to develop or expand these databases to provide greater links between K-12, postsecondary and work force data.

We share the department's commitment to educational excellence, however, as we wrote in the comments, we believe the proposed regulations jeopardize important FERPA protections for students 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.

We also are concerned that the NPRM eliminates the current requirement that the authority to collect student data must be established by federal, state or local law, making it easier for others to request. It could create significant administrative challenges for campuses as you will likely begin to receive requests for data without a clear understanding of the requester's authority or how the data will be protected.

The comment period is now closed. I will let you know when the final rules are released.

The National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) will publish the first "College Affordability and Transparency Lists" on or before July 1, and we heard this week from our contacts at NCES that institutions will only have a 48-hour advance look at the lists before they are made public.

As you might remember, these lists came to us in 2008 courtesy of the Higher Education Opportunity Act. They seek to focus attention on institutions with rapid tuition increases and give families more information about the actual price they are likely to pay.

Broken down by the nine Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System categories (e.g., four-year public not-for-profit, two-year private for-profit), there will be six lists to contend with:

1. The top 5 percent of the most expensive institutions in terms of tuition and fees in the most recent preceding academic year for which data is available.

2. The top 5 percent of the most expensive institutions in terms of net price in the previous academic year.

3. The top 5 percent of institutions with the largest percentage change in tuition and fees over the three previous academic years.

4. The top 5 percent of institutions with the largest percentage change in net price over the three previous academic years.

5. The 10 percent of institutions with the lowest tuition and fees in the previous academic year.

6. The 10 percent of institutions with the lowest net price in the previous academic year.

Institutions on lists three and four will be required to provide reports to the secretary of education explaining the price increases and identifying steps to reduce them in the future. This information will be summarized in an annual report to Congress and published on NCES's College Navigator website.

The House of Representatives voted 389-0 on Monday to approve the GI Bill Fairness Act of 2011 (H.R. 1383), an effort to further refine the administration of Post-9/11 GI Bill benefits.

The bill, introduced by Rep. Jeff Miller (R-FL), would grandfather Post-9/11 GI Bill payments for student veterans currently enrolled in private colleges and universities, protecting them from a possible reduction in benefits due to changes included in the Veterans Educational Assistance Improvements Act of 2010 passed in January. That law replaced state-by-state caps on tuition and fee payments with a single nationwide cap of $17,500 a year for private institutions. The cap, which takes effect Aug. 1, would result in a reduction in benefits for students currently attending certain private institutions unless action is taken to help maintain current levels.

The Senate Veterans' Affairs Committee is expected to hold a hearing on its own version of the legislation June 8.

IN BRIEF

A group of 105 Democratic representatives sent a letter to leaders of the House Labor-Health and Human Services-Education Appropriations Subcommittee last week urging them to maintain the Pell Grant maximum award at the current level of $5,550. The letter notes that state higher education funding cuts have pushed even more of college costs to students, making Pell Grants essential to families as well as a cornerstone of American competitiveness.

I urge you all to register for our June 15 webinar that will explore arguments made in the recent book, Academically Adrift: Limited Learning on College Campuses. The event is scheduled from 2:00-3:15 p.m. EDT and will feature authors Richard Arum and Josipa Roksa, along with Gary Rhoades, general secretary of the American Association of University Professors. ACE Senior Vice President Terry Hartle will moderate. For more information and to register, see the ACE website.

Please watch for my note to you next week about the survey for ACE's American College President Study, which will open May 31. The survey results are disseminated through the report, The American College President, one of the oldest, most comprehensive analyses of college and university presidents from every sector of higher education. Historically, a print version of the survey has been mailed to participants, but this year we are administering the survey completely online. We ask that you complete the survey by Friday, June 24, 2011. For more information, contact Bryan Cook in the Center for Policy Analysis at bcook@acenet.edu or (202) 939-9381.

I would like to welcome Gretchen M. Bataille and Patti McGill Peterson to the ranks of ACE's senior leadership. Gretchen will serve as senior vice president for programs and services and Patti as presidential advisor for global initiatives. In addition, Kara D. Freeman, who has been with us for several years, was promoted to vice president for administration. I know all three will bring to ACE and our members a wealth of knowledge and commitment to serving U.S. higher education, and I look forward to our partnership. For details, see the news release.

The National Education Writers Association (EWA) is seeking proposals from research universities with a footprint in the education policy landscape to host its 2012 National Seminar, the largest professional training event for K-12 and higher education reporters and editors in the country. Hosting this annual conference offers institutions a chance to showcase their education expertise in early childhood, K-12 and/or higher education before journalists from across the United States and beyond. For additional information, please visit EWA's website.

Molly Corbett Broad
President of ACE