Recap: Top 10 Federal Policy Changes in 2014
Despite last year's gridlock, Congress still passed a number of laws and federal agencies implemented a host of new regulations requiring colleges and universities to take action and implement new policies and procedures.
Throughout 2014, headlines often focused on campus sexual assault, proposals for comprehensive tax reform and reauthorization of the Higher Education Act. Congress introduced measures in these areas, but never passed any major pieces of legislation. These issues remain on the table for 2015, with further attention and action expected in the new Congress.
In chronological order, federal action in 2014 included:
- OMB Grant Reforms. Technically released by the Office of Management and Budget on December 26, 2013, NACUBO prepared a four-part series on OMB's new "super circular," providing uniform guidance for management of federal awards.
- New VA Online Complaint System. The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) launched a tool to help veterans decide which school to attend and an online system for logging veterans' complaints about their educational experience.
- Employer Obligations Under the Affordable Care Act. Final Internal Revenue Service rules solidified proposed definitions and requirements related to adjuncts and students. Additional rules, published later, addressed contraceptive coverage.
- Updated Tuition Assistance MOU. Colleges and universities wishing to participate in the Department of Defense's voluntary education programs were required to sign a revised memorandum of understanding.
- In-State Tuition Mandate for Service Members, Veterans and Their Families. As a condition of participation in VA education benefits programs, public institutions must now charge veterans and their dependents in-state tuition and fees if they currently reside in the state.
- Money Market Fund Reform. Although the Securities and Exchange Commission fundamentally altered the way money market funds operate, government and retail money market funds—which many colleges and universities prefer as a vehicle for cash management—can continue using the amortized cost and/or penny-rounding method of pricing.
- Violence Against Women Act. The Department of Education finalized rules addressing sexual violence on college campuses; requiring changes to the crime statistics reported, inclusion of specific policies in annual security reports, and training efforts to prevent sexual assaults.
- PLUS Loan Eligibility. ED issued final rules revising the definition of "adverse credit" for PLUS loans to better balance higher education access with protection from over borrowing.
- Final Accountability Measures for Gainful Employment Programs. Gainful employment programs that do not meet debt-to-earnings requirements will be ineligible to receive Title IV funds when the new standards are fully phased in.
- Increased Pell Grant Maximum. Congress passed a $1.1 trillion FY15 budget, increasing the maximum Pell Grant award for academic year 2015-16 by $100 to $5,830.