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Biden-Harris Administration Seeks Nominations for New Higher Education Program Integrity and Institutional Quality Rulemaking Panel

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The U.S. Department of Education (Department) announced today that it will publish a notice in the Federal Register establishing a negotiated rulemaking committee that will meet to rewrite regulations that address some of the “nuts and bolts” of Title IV program integrity and institutional quality under the Higher Education Act. In the notice, the Department requests nominations for non-Federal negotiators and sets dates for negotiation sessions.

“The Department is committed to expanding access to opportunity through quality higher education and supporting students to achieve their college dreams,” said U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona. “Our regulatory efforts reflect our laser-focus on ensuring that students are well served by the higher education institutions they attend and that our federal student aid programs are helping them to attain postsecondary success.”

These nominations are the second step in a process known as “negotiated rulemaking,” which is required under the Higher Education Act for any regulations related to the Federal student financial aid programs. This process started with public hearings and a request for public comments conducted by the Department in April 2023. Next, negotiators selected by the Department will meet virtually on January 8-11, February 5-8, and March 4-7 to discuss ideas for regulatory reform. A subcommittee will meet virtually on January 12 and February 9. Sessions will be open to the public and include opportunities for public comment.

The Department announced the following issues for negotiation:

  • The Secretary’s recognition of accrediting agencies and related issues;
  • Institutional eligibility, including state authorization;
  • The definition of distance education as it pertains to clock hour programs and reporting for students who enroll primarily online; 
  • Return of Title IV of Higher Education Act of 1965 funds; and
  • Cash management to address disbursement of student funds.

The Department also announced the creation of a subcommittee to address participant eligibility requirements for the Federal TRIO programs. The final list of topics is narrowed from the topics first announced to be considered in April this year to allow the Department to focus on related and overlapping topics as announced today. The list does not include Third Party Servicers, which the Department may consider for future rulemakings. Additionally, the Department intends to issue updated guidance on Third Party Servicers in early 2024.

The Department is soliciting nominations for primary and alternate negotiators to represent the following 15 constituent groups for the main negotiating committee:

  • Civil rights organizations and consumer advocates;
  • Legal assistance organizations;
  • State officials, including State Higher Education Executive Officers, State authorizing agencies, and State regulators of institutions of higher education;
  • State Attorneys General;
  • Students or borrowers, including currently enrolled borrowers, or groups representing them;
  • U.S. military service members, veterans, or groups representing them;
  • Public four-year Institutions of higher education;
  • Public two-year Institutions of higher education;
  • Private nonprofit institutions of higher education;
  • Historically Black Colleges and Universities, Tribal Colleges and Universities, and Minority-serving institutions, including Hispanic-serving institutions (institutions of higher education eligible to receive Federal assistance under title III, parts A and F, and title IV of the HEA);
  • Proprietary institutions of higher education;
  • Institutional accrediting agencies recognized by the Secretary;
  • Programmatic accrediting agencies recognized by the Secretary, to include State agencies recognized for the approval of nurse education;
  • Financial aid administrators; and
  • Business officers from institutions of higher education.

The Department is also soliciting nominations for primary negotiators to represent the following five constituent groups for the subcommittee:

  • Institutions of higher education;
  • Public or private agencies or organizations, including community-based organizations with experience meeting the needs of underserved youth;
  • Secondary schools, including local educational agencies with secondary schools;
  • Current or former participants in a Federal TRIO program;
  • State officials, including State Higher Education Officers, State authorizing agencies, and State regulators of higher education.

To submit nominations for committee or subcommittee spots, please email negregnominations@ed.gov. Nominations must be received by December 13, 2023. Please see an unofficial copy of the Federal Register Notice here for additional details on requirements for nominees.

For more details on the 2023-24 negotiated rulemaking process, please visit: https://www2.ed.gov/policy/highered/reg/hearulemaking/2023/index.html  

Today’s announcement builds on the work the Biden-Harris Administration has already done to fix the student loan program by providing $127 billion in relief to 3.6 million borrowers, make higher education more affordable by securing the largest increase in Pell Grants in a decade, and holding institutions accountable for unaffordable debts.

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