We have received positive news from our friends at NAICU.
While there had been little optimism for progress on new regulations for Title IV student financial aid programs, the negotiated rulemaking committee created by the U.S. Department of Education was able to reach consensus after four months of deliberations. Negotiators recognized the importance of locking in compromises by reaching consensus and forcing the Department to publish proposed rules based on the agreed on language, which impact accreditation, distance learning, TEACH grants, Title IV eligibility of faith-based institutions, and more. If they had not reached consensus, the Department would have been free to publish regulations reflecting its own priorities.
Many thanks to Allen University President Ernest McNealey for his service on the committee.
The Department was for pushing for weakening regional accreditation, but faced considerable pushback from the committee, and agreed to compromise language that preserves the current system.
Another controversial Department of Education proposal would have allowed Title IV-eligible institutions to outsource up to 100 percent of their programs to non-Title IV-eligible providers via such contractual agreements. A compromise was reached whereby the Department agreed to retain current limits on the percentage of such written arrangements in return for changes that will allow accreditors to speed up the review and approval of these arrangements.
Other proposed changes before the negotiated rulemaking committee appeared to be aimed at reducing regulatory burden, including deleting the federal definition of credit hour and the regulations governing state authorization for distance education. Although NAICU has supported the elimination of such provisions, many negotiators argued that retaining these requirements was important for protecting consumers, and both of these provisions were preserved in modified form. Additionally, negotiators successfully argued against the inclusion of several proposals that would have hampered the discretion of institutions in determining what credits they accept from transfer students.
Negotiators also reached consensus on new rules for online and competency-based programs. The committee also agreed to a regulatory fix for current and future TEACH grant recipients who have experienced inadvertent grant-to-loan conversions. Finally, the committee agreed to several changes designed to improve faith-based institutions’ access to the Title IV programs and to define religious mission.