In a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking published on July 31, the Department of Education announced an ambitious plan to receive comments, hold public hearings, and eventually establish a negotiated rulemaking committee on a wide range of substantive issues.
After halting the implementation of distance learning/state authorization rules that were passed during the Obama administration and set to take effect this past July, ED is revisiting the regulations in this rulemaking effort. The notice appears to indicate an intention to review almost every aspect of distance learning regulations, including the definition of “regular and substantive interaction,” as used in the definitions of “correspondence course” and “distance education;” the definition of the term “credit hour;” and the structuring of arrangements between one institution and another institution or organization to provide a portion of an educational program.
ED also described its interest in developing new standards for teach-out plans, refining the definition of “job placement rates” to ensure greater accuracy in reporting numbers, and clarifying the requirements for Teacher Education Assistance for College and Higher Education (TEACH) grants, after many recipients were surprised to find their grants converted to loans.
ED also indicated that a U.S. Supreme Court decision from earlier this year, Trinity Lutheran Church of Columbia, Inc. v. Comer, had prompted it to consider revisions to several Higher Education Act (HEA) regulations that establish the eligibility of faith-based entities to participate in the Title IV HEA programs. In fact, one of two subcommittees established as part of this rulemaking will focus solely on this issue, while the other subcommittee will focus on regulations related to direct assessment programs and competency-based education.
Following the comment period for this notice, which concludes on September 14, ED will announce a more specific group of topics for the negotiated rulemaking committee to focus on and will issue a request for nominations for individual negotiators. ED anticipates that the committee’s negotiations will begin in January 2019.