Legislative Activity

Fiscal Year 2014 Funding

Budget conferees appear close to a deal that could set spending allocations for each appropriations bill over the next two years. This deal may set the stage for an omnibus appropriations bill instead of a year-long Continuing Resolution (CR), which would unlikely include the Labor-HHS-Education bill. House Appropriations Labor-HHS-Education Subcommittee Chair Jack Kingston (R-GA) admitted that this particular appropriations bill would need to include major structural changes to many of the programs and agencies funded in the bill to ensure Republican support, but that legislation would never progress in the Senate. The alternative would be another year-long CR for the Labor-HHS-Education bill.

Gainful Employment

As the department heads into its final negotiated rulemaking committee meeting on gainful employment regulations this week, House Democratic Reps. Alcee Hastings (FL), Robert Andrews (NJ), Carolyn McCarthy (NY), and Patrick Murphy (FL) authored a Dear Colleague letter to gather support for their inquiry to Education Secretary Arne Duncan concerning the latest efforts to rewrite the regulations. Specifically, the letter requests data showing the impact of the regulation on all programs at all institutions of higher education (instead of the limited subset initially targeted by the department). The policymakers are also seeking data on the rewrite of the regulations would affect students by demographic.

The negotiated rulemaking committee on gainful employment did not reach a consensus during its final meeting last week. Therefore, the department announced negotiators will hold a final session on Friday, December 13 from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m EST.

Upcoming Hearings:

  • Thursday, December 12: The Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee will hold a hearing titled “Accreditation as Quality Assurance: Meeting the Needs of 21st Century Learning.”

Other Events:

  • Tuesday, December 10: The Congressional E-Learning Caucus will host a discussion in cooperation with Digital Learning Now! related to how open data can help personalize learning for every student and improve educational outcomes.

Regulatory Activity

College Affordability Summit

The White House has postponed its meeting initially scheduled for Wednesday, December 11 with a group of approximately 140 higher education leaders to discuss commitments to improve access and success for low-income students. The meeting was coordinated by the National Economic Council and Domestic Policy Council, along with the Department of Education. The administration postponed the meeting due to President Obama and the First Lady traveling to attend services for former South African President Nelson Mandela.

To improve access and success for low-income students, the White House is looking to target recruiting and graduating low-income students, expanding the pool of low-income college students, and investing in remediation. These are all issues we expect the White House to address when it releases its blueprint for the Higher Education Act reauthorization next year. The controversial college ratings plan released by the administration in August was not expected to be part of the agenda.

Experimental Sites

As expected, the Department of Education published a notice requesting feedback from institutions of higher education that participate in the student assistance programs authorized under Title IV. The department is interested in how it can work with colleges and universities interested in experimenting with alternative learning programs such as competency-based learning. Specifically, the department seeks suggestions for creative experiments to test innovations with the potential to increase quality while also reducing costs in higher education. Feedback must be submitted to experimentalsites@ed.gov by January 31, 2014.

Upcoming Events:

  • Wednesday, December 11: The White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for Hispanics will hold a meeting of the President’s Advisory Commission on Educational Excellence for Hispanics to review the 2013-2016 Commission strategic plan, including activities and engagement efforts for 2014 on key priorities.