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On August 22, the President unveiled his plan to address college costs on a two-day college bus tour in upstate New York. A proposed new rating system garnered significant attention, but the White House fact sheet reflects a multi-pronged approach to a variety of goals, including improving student persistence and academic success, shortening time to degree, and reducing student loan indebtedness. The plan also announced, "The Department will use its authority to issue regulatory waivers for 'experimental sites' that promote high-quality, low-cost innovations in higher education."

As a part of President Obama's agenda, the Department of Education recently published a Federal Register notice seeking suggestions for alternative approaches to the delivery of student aid for the purpose of strengthening outcomes for students. The announcement is a part of the Experimental Sites Initiative, which allows selected institutions relief from some regulatory requirements in order to test innovative approaches.

This latest Experimental Sites Initiative announcement states, "We are particularly interested in experiments that are designed to improve student persistence and academic success, result in shorter time to degree, including by allowing students to advance through educational courses and programs at their own pace by demonstrating academic achievement, and reduce reliance on student loans."

For example, ED seeks new approaches to:

  • Allowing flexibility in how institutions provide Federal student aid to students enrolled in competency-based education programs, where progress is measured on the basis of how much has been learned, rather than measures of time.
  • Allowing high school students to receive Federal student aid for enrollment in postsecondary coursework without reductions in the state and local support provided for such enrollment.
  • Allowing use of Federal student aid to pay for assessments of prior learning and other processes to evaluate students' knowledge.

The Department of Education previously approved eight experiments to start in the 2012-13 award year following an October 27, 2011, Federal Register notice.

January 31, is the deadline for the student aid delivery submissions. NACUBO encourages members to consider applying. ED suggests submissions, which need not exceed three pages, address the following:

  • The specific statutory or regulatory requirement(s) relating to the Title IV, HEA programs that would be waived or modified to test the alternative approach.
  • Descriptions of the recommended alternative approach and how the proposed alternative approach avoids or minimizes challenges imposed by the existing requirements.
  • A description of how the experiment could be evaluated, including identifying outcome measures and ways to collect comparative data with respect to the current statutory or regulatory requirements that would be waived as a part of the experiment.


Liz Clark

Vice President, Policy and Research


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