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

The Department of Education in the United States (Department) stated today that it will release a notice in the Federal Register to establish a committee for negotiated rulemaking. This committee will convene to revise regulations pertaining to the practical aspects of Title IV program integrity and institutional quality under the Higher Education Act. The Department is inviting nominations for non-Federal negotiators and has set dates for the negotiation sessions.

“The Department is dedicated to enhancing access to quality higher education and supporting students in achieving their college aspirations,” stated U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona. “Our regulatory initiatives reflect our unwavering focus on ensuring that students are well served by the higher education institutions they attend and that our federal student aid programs contribute to their postsecondary success.”

These nominations mark the second phase of a process known as “negotiated rulemaking,” which the Higher Education Act requires for any regulations related to Federal student financial aid programs. The process commenced with public hearings and a request for public comments conducted by the Department in April 2023. The Department will now convene negotiators selected by them in virtual sessions on January 8-11, February 5-8, and March 4-7 to discuss ideas for regulatory reform. Additionally, a subcommittee will meet virtually on January 12 and February 9. The sessions will be open to the public and include opportunities for public comment.

The Department has announced the following topics for negotiation:

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

The Department has also established a subcommittee to address participant eligibility requirements for the Federal TRIO programs. The final list of topics has been refined to enable the Department to focus on related and overlapping issues. Third Party Servicers, which may be considered for future rulemakings, are not included in the list. Furthermore, the Department intends to issue updated guidance on Third Party Servicers in early 2024.

The Department is seeking nominations for primary and alternate negotiators from 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, including State agencies recognized for the approval of nurse education;
  • Financial aid administrators; and
  • Business officers from institutions of higher education.

The Department is also seeking nominations for primary negotiators from 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 efforts already carried out by the Biden-Harris Administration to address issues in the student loan program. These efforts include providing $127 billion in relief to 3.6 million borrowers, securing the largest increase in Pell Grants in a decade to make higher education more affordable, and holding institutions accountable for burdensome debts.

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