November 29, 2023
The Biden administration is moving forward on its ambitious plans to update the regulations governing accreditation and the definition of distance education, among other topics, the U.S. Education Department announced Tuesday.
The planned negotiations could be the Biden administration’s last chance to leave its mark on federal higher education policy before the 2024 presidential election. Any regulatory updates likely wouldn’t take effect until 2025, but experts and advocates see an opportunity to make the higher education system work better for students and to build in more consumer protections.
“The department is committed to expanding access to opportunity through quality higher education and supporting students to achieve their college dreams,” U.S. secretary of education Miguel Cardona said in a statement. “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.”
The department said the final list of issues subject to negotiation will address some of the “nuts and bolts” of Title IV program integrity and institutional quality under the Higher Education Act. (Title IV is part of the HEA, which authorizes federal financial aid programs.)
Per the news release, the department will update the regulations governing:
The education secretary’s recognition of accrediting agencies and related issues;
Institutional eligibility, including state authorization;
The definition of distance education pertaining to clock-hour programs and reporting for students who enroll primarily online;
Institutions’ return of Title IV funds to the government; and
Cash management to address disbursement of student funds.