April 11, 2023
The U.S. Department of Education began a series of virtual meetings Tuesday to hear feedback on its expansive regulatory agenda, which could include reworks to college accreditation, federal student aid and distance learning policies.
The public hearings, which are scheduled through Thursday, serve as a precursor for what will likely be a months-long process of negotiating over new rules starting in the fall. The department will bring in representatives from across the higher ed sector to iron out policy differences.
Several speakers Tuesday urged the Education Department to beef up student consumer protections and better hold poorly performing institutions accountable. Others criticized the agency’s recently expanded definition of third-party vendors that service colleges. Colleges have argued that this policy, which takes effect in September, would impose onerous oversight on areas like study abroad programs and online program management.
The Education Department is taking on a colossal regulatory docket — one some policy experts say might be too large to accomplish in the remainder of President Joe Biden’s term.
That’s especially true for the Office of Federal Student Aid, which is handling mammoth tasks such as simplifying the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA, form without major additional funding from Congress.
Under Biden, the Education Department has also prioritized retooling the beleaguered federal student loan system, through proposed changes like reducing the minimum amount borrowers need to contribute monthly to income-driven repayment plans.
Top of mind for many colleges, however, is the department’s updated guidance on what constitutes a third-party servicer, which are subject to stricter reporting requirements.