Oakland University
Friday, March 13, 2015

AASCU Update

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To:  AASCU Presidents and Chancellors, Federal Government Affairs Officers
From:  Edward M. Elmendorf, Vice President of Government Relations and Policy Analysis
  Barmak Nassirian, Director of Federal Relations and Policy Analysis
  Makese Motley, Asst. Director of Federal Relations and Policy Analysis
Date: Thursday, February 19, 2015
Subject: AASCU Statement on "Supporting Academic Freedom Through Regulatory Relief" Act

Dear Colleagues,

Reps. John Kline (R-MN), Virginia Foxx (R-NC), and Alcee Hastings (D-FL) have introduced a bill—HR 970, "Supporting Academic Freedom through Regulatory Relief Act"—to deny federal funding to several regulatory initiatives at the U.S. Department of Education. The Administration initiatives that the bill would suspend or terminate are:

  • Postsecondary Institution Ratings System -- permanently banned
  • Gainful Employment Regulation -- suspended through next reauthorization of the HEA
  • Teacher Preparation Regulation -- suspended through next reauthorization of the HEA
  • State Authorization Regulation -- suspended through next reauthorization of the HEA
  • Definition of Credit-Hour -- permanently banned

After internal deliberation as well as consultation with colleagues at other higher education associations, we've decided to endorse this legislation even though we have some misgivings.

  • The legislation includes what we consider to be extraneous provisions that we do not support. It loosens the incentive compensation ban for recruitment of students and the permanent ban on regulating the credit-hour definition (whose abuse by the for-profit sector was documented before the House Education and Workforce Committee).
  • It is unclear that the suspension of the state authorization regulation will make a difference since statutory state authorization requirements remain intact.
  • We continue to support well-crafted regulations on gainful employment, and believe an indefinite suspension of regulatory authority to be an over-reaction. We would have preferred that Congress instruct the Department to initiate another rulemaking effort on this topic.
  • Finally, even when we disagree with the Department of Education on its regulatory or administrative choices, we believe congressional legislative intervention to be appropriate only as a last resort. It is important for the Department to have flexibility to regulate its programs in light of changing circumstances, and for Congress not to attempt to micromanage the detailed operations of the laws it passes.

Our reservations about the bill are offset by some of the Administration's policy choices that we consider harmful to institutions and students:

  • While the idea of a federal ratings system did not strike us as a practical approach to improving quality, accountability or transparency, we withheld judgment and waited for the plan to be announced. The "framework" released last December has made it increasingly clear that the Department is unlikely to have a concrete plan, thus this effort is unlikely to be successful.
  • AASCU supported (and continues to support) strong risk-based gainful employment regulations that focus enforcement and oversight attention on subpar providers and that don't impose unnecessary costly or onerous compliance costs on institutions that focus on serving their student populations. Despite our best efforts as participants in the negotiated rulemaking process, the Department unfortunately produced regulations that will not curb waste, fraud, and abuse, but will impose tremendous costs on all institutions.
  • The proposed teacher preparation regulations currently pending at the Department represent an unfortunate intrusion of arbitrary, non-evidence-based opinion on academic judgments of the faculty. The Department is acting unilaterally, with no scientific or scholarly support for the random criteria it seeks to write into regulations.

In light of these considerations, we have decided to endorse the House legislation. We are not mobilizing our membership in support of this legislation, and leave it to each institution to decide for itself whether it will seek the support of its member of Congress for HR 970.

Contact Us

Makese S.Motley
Assistant Director, Federal Relations and Policy Analysis
(202) 478-4652

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Created by Claudia DiMercurio (dimercur@oakland.edu) on Friday, March 13, 2015
Modified by Claudia DiMercurio (dimercur@oakland.edu) on Friday, March 13, 2015
Article Start Date: Friday, March 13, 2015