The Department of Education recently announced its intention to establish a new round of negotiated rulemaking focused primarily on simplifying accrediting requirements for educational programs.
After considering comments received in writing and at hearings, ED announced its intent to form one Accreditation and Innovation Committee that will oversee three subcommittees: the Distance Learning and Educational Innovation Subcommittee, the Faith-Based Entities Subcommittee, and the TEACH Grants Subcommittee. The subcommittees will report findings and suggestions up to the main committee, which has sole authority to agree to the proposed rules.
The proposed rulemaking is set to address a few of ED’s key goals, which could ultimately make it easier for new and non-traditional groups to operate in higher education. For example, the Distance Learning and Educational Innovation Subcommittee will seek to define the term “regular and substantive interaction” as it applies to distance learning, as well as the term “credit hour.” Looser definitions of such terms may clear a path to accreditation and access to Title IV aid for new educational organizations.
Separate from accreditation issues, the TEACH Grants Subcommittee will attempt to improve the efficacy of the TEACH Grant Program by reducing instances of inadvertent grant-to-loan conversion. Many participants in the TEACH Grant Program saw their grants turn to debt when they failed to maintain eligibility. Policymakers believe that by simplifying and clarifying requirements, they may be able to reduce these inadvertent or unintended conversions, which leave teachers responsible for as much as $4,000 for each year they received the aid.
ED has issued a call for negotiators, and meetings will be held in January, February, and March of 2019. If full consensus is reached by the committee, ED will be bound to instate the agreed-upon regulatory language. Under the master calendar provision of the Higher Education Act, the earliest new rules could be enacted is July 1, 2020. NACUBO will not nominate a representative to the full committee or subcommittees but will continue to report on developments.