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As things move quickly in Washington, DC, NACUBO is your constant advocate in action. NACUBO On Your Side covers important legislative and agency activity NACUBO staff are tracking, what we’re currently advocating for, and how you can take action with us. 

Here are the issues we are tracking and advocating for this week.

Agency Action

FSA Warns of Cyberattacks
The Department of Education’s Federal Student Aid (FSA) office has issued a warning that malicious cyber actors have been using illegal methods to gain access to on-premises Microsoft Exchange servers of U.S. institutions beginning as early as January 2021. Once inside these systems, bad actors can steal credentials and mailbox data that store and transmit sensitive information, such as financial and personally identifiable information. The FSA notice offers steps that schools can take to protect their systems.

Training Now Available for ED’s New FSA Partner Connect
On March 11, the Department of Education announced the availability of FSA Partner Connect training designed to help users understand and navigate the new website when it launches later this month. Live webinars, webinar records, tutorials, and reference documents are now available. 

ED Requests Data for Reopening Best Practices Clearinghouse
The Department of Education is requesting information from institutions on best practices for reopening in light of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. The submissions, which ED will accept until September 2021, will be aggregated in a clearinghouse for K-12 and postsecondary schools. Submissions should include “substantive materials such as fact sheets, step-by-step guidance, policies or regulations, sample agreements among partners (e.g., between a local education agency and a local health agency, or an employee union), ready-to-implement resources, videos or other media focused on how to implement practices, and descriptions of how strategies have been implemented.” Responses can be submitted via email to Bestpracticesclearinghouse@ed.gov.

ED Acts to Facilitate SNAP Access
ED has announced steps it is taking to facilitate the temporary expansion of the population of college and university students who are eligible to benefit from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) to help combat food insecurity. Under a new agreement, ED will allow the U.S. Department of Agriculture to access limited student data from the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), including a student’s expected family contribution, Federal Work-Study Program eligibility, and email address to communicate with students about their possible eligibility for SNAP benefits.

Judicial Action

Federal Judge Mostly Upholds Borrower Defense Regulations
A district court judge in the Southern District of New York has mostly upheld changes to the borrower defense to repayment regulations made during the Trump administration. The decision found that the bulk of the changes made to the rules were not arbitrary and capricious; however, it also found that the three-year statute of limitations on borrower claims in the policy was flawed and has ordered ED to modify the rules in accordance with that ruling. In an announcement unrelated to the litigation, ED said it is choosing to proactively rescind the Trump administration’s policy of forgiving only a portion of the federal student loan debt owed by borrowers who were defrauded by their college and is in the process of developing a formula to replace that policy.

Advocacy

NACUBO, Associations Urge Agency Prep for Fall Semester
NACUBO has joined 40 other higher education associations in a letter to the Departments of State and Homeland Security, urging them to take proactive steps now to ensure the timely processing of visas for international students for the Fall 2021 semester. The letter lays out multiple steps that both agencies can take to address visa processing issues during the ongoing pandemic to “help restore the U.S. as a destination of choice” for international students. 

Take Action

Register for NACUBO’s Next Town Hall
Connect with NACUBO’s policy team on Wednesday, March 24 at 1 pm ET for their analysis of the latest HEERF guidance from the Department of Education. You can register in advance here

Previous Edition

NACUBO On Your Side: March 9-15, 2021

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