NACAC agreement –
The National Association for College Admission Counseling (NACAC) voted late last month to remove provisions from its “Code of Ethics and Professional Practices” in the hope of ending an investigation by the U.S. Department of Justice for possible antitrust law violations.
Removing the following prohibitions is intended to address the Justice Department’s position that NACAC’s practices were anti-competitive and hindered the capacity of students to secure the best aid package for themselves:
- Colleges must not offer special incentives to students applying through an early decision program
- Colleges must not recruit students after they have committed to, or enrolled in, another institution
- Colleges must not solicit transfer applications from students who had previously applied, but enrolled at another institution
As reported in the Chronicle of Higher Education, college and university staff are concerned that students will be overwhelmed by offers even after having made a decision. I would also note that students may commit to institutions even later in the summer, hoping to secure the best deal. Doing so will make enrollment projections – and budget building – that much more of a challenge. Additionally, colleges and universities with greater resources at their disposal will have an even greater competitive advantage in recruiting students.
HEA Reauthorization –
We now have dueling approaches to reauthorizing the Higher Education Act.
Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN), chair of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, is very eager for some manner of reauthorization to pass before he retires next year. With negotiations over HEA bogged down, Sen. Alexander endeavored to create an incentive by not allowing the extension of legislation that funds HBCUs and minority-serving institutions (MSIs).
As an alternative to the extension, which expired September 30th, he introduced the Student Aid Improvement Act of 2019, which offers permanent extension of the $255 million in HBCU/MSI funding, along with provisions that:
- Create a streamlined FAFSA
- Remove the ban on Pell Grants for incarcerated students
- Provide access to Pell Grants for short-term job training programs at institutions that keep tuition and fee increases at or under inflation
- Increase requirements for financial literacy training
- Provide a $20 mandatory increase in the Pell Grant maximum, beyond what Congress funds in the annual budgeting process
While we very much appreciate the commitment to student aid, and to the HBCUs, we remain concerned about students draining their Pell Grants on short-term training that will not translate into securing a college degree, which is the purpose of the Pell Grant Program.
The bill is silent on Title IX, which is a high priority for ranking committee member Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA), who wants increased protections for survivors of sexual assaults.
Last week, Rep. Bobby Scott (D-VA) introduced the House majority version of HEA reauthorization, the “College Affordability Act.” At 1,165 pages, this bill is certainly comprehensive, and, not surprisingly, contains elements that support independent higher education and our students, as well as provisions that do our institutions a disservice. Elements of the bill that support independent higher education include:
- Continues support for the core student aid programs including:
- A $500 increase in the maximum Pell Grant award;
- The preservation of SEOG, including the new emergency grant funding for students in short term crisis;
- The expansion of Federal Work Study; and
- The reinstatement of the Perkins Loans Program.
- Provides bonus grants to institutions that graduate on time bachelor degree students who receive Pell Grants.
- Allows students receiving Pell Grants who have not exhausted all their undergraduate Pell eligibility to carry the remainder on to graduate school.
- Increases and permanently reauthorizes mandatory funding for Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs), Tribal Colleges and Universities (TCUs), and other Minority Serving Institutions (MSIs).
Unfortunately, the bill also creates programs hostile to independent higher education and imposes unnecessary federal mandates:
- Creates a free community college program, which would favor funding certain institutions over private, nonprofit colleges, and diverts resources that could enhance the core student aid programs.
- Federalizes accreditation by requiring the U.S. Secretary of Education to develop measures that accreditors must use to assess an institution’s success with completion or workforce participation. Accreditation is meant to promote institutional – and student – success, not enforce compliance with arbitrary federal standards.
- Adds a lengthy list of new reporting and compliance requirements for colleges that will add extensively to administrative costs and reduce the flexibility of campuses to address issues in a manner that reflect their unique circumstances:
- Extensive reporting and/or educational requirements on hazing
- Establishing a coordinator position under Title VI of the Civil Rights Act
- The creation of an Office of Accessibility
The competing approaches to HEA reauthorization will require extensive bipartisan negotiations to arrive at a bill that can pass both houses. It remains to be seen whether the current environment on Capitol Hill will permit such collaboration.