New Higher Education Regulations

The Obama administration is setting new regulations on colleges that participate in federal student aid programs, according to an article in The Washington Post.

            This initiative will change how admission recruiters are paid, how course credits are defined and how college curriculums and training programs will operate.

            There will be 13 new regulations for colleges that accept federal student aid programs, decided on by policy makers October 27, 2010. The rules will go into effect in July 2011, giving the federal government more control over college education.

            Policymakers are still debating restrictions on a 14th proposal that would force restrictions on for-profit colleges and other non-degree vocational programs. This proposal would require these schools to meet new qualifications on student debt in order to qualify for federal student aid. Policymakers are calling this the “gainful employment” proposal, and it is expected to be resolved in 2011. For-profit colleges are strongly debating against this proposal.

            This new program "will help ensure that students are getting from schools what they pay for: solid preparation for a good job," Education Secretary Arne Duncan said in a statement. Other education officials noted that the federal government funds tens of billions of dollars every year in student grants and loans.

            Some of the major provisions of this new program are eliminating compensations for admission recruiters based on student enrollment, requiring for-profit and other non-degree programs to notify the government when they intend to launch a career-training program and creating a federal definition of a credit hour that is one hour of class time and two hours of homework per week. The last provision will help when verifying a student’s eligibility and financial aid.

            Harris N. Miller, president of the Association of Private Sector Colleges and Universities, a group that represents the for-profit sector, said that the provision on for-profit colleges had been mitigated from previous, harsher versions.  "It sounds like they're moving toward a more pragmatic approach," Miller said.

            Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa), chairman of the Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions, called the provision on for-profit colleges "an important first step toward protecting the billions of taxpayer dollars invested in for-profit colleges."

            The American Council on Education, which represents college and university presidents expressed concerns about the credit hour provision.          "I don't think any industry is improved by increasing federal control over it," said. Terry W. Hartle, a senior vice president of the council.