Legislative Activity

Campus Sexual Assault Legislation to Remain a Priority Next Congress

This week, the Senate Judiciary Committee will hold a hearing on campus sexual assault to explore the roles and responsibilities of law enforcement in handling these types of cases.  Senator Claire McCaskill (D-MO) and Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) are scheduled to testify at the hearing, along with representatives from law enforcement agencies at Oregon State University and Cornell University. This hearing is part of an ongoing effort to address issues of sexual assault and violence on college campuses, which included Senators McCaskill and Gillibrand’s efforts along with 16 other bipartisan co-sponsors to introduce the Campus Accountability and Safety Act (S. 2692) in July. The legislation will not be considered in the remaining time of the 113th Congress but it is expected to be reintroduced next year. Incoming Chairman of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee Lamar Alexander (R-TN) worked closely with Senator McCaskill’s staff to draft the bill and will likely continue to be supportive of passing campus sexual assault legislation in the next Congress.

This Week’s Hearings:

  • Tuesday, December 9: The Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Crime and Terrorism will host a hearing titled “Campus Sexual Assault: the Roles and Responsibilities of Law Enforcement.”

Regulatory Activity

White House Holds Second College Opportunity Summit

Last Thursday, the White House held its second College Opportunity Summit focused on helping more students prepare for and graduate from college. University presidents, school superintendents, business leaders and other education stakeholders attended the Summit and made over 600 new commitments to expand access and opportunities for more students to enroll and succeed in college, particularly low-income and underrepresented students. The White House released a fact sheet that details the commitments which were focused in one of four areas:  (1) building networks of colleges focused on promoting completion, (2) creating K-16 partnerships around college readiness, (3) investing in high school counselors as part of the First Lady’s Reach Higher initiative, and (4) increasing the number of college graduates in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields. Additionally, the President announced action would also be taken on the following commitments:

  • Dedicate $10 million to research college completion through the Institute of Education Sciences;
  • Expand college access through the AmeriCorps Partnership Challenge to provide education awards for AmeriCorps members through public-private partnerships;
  • Launch an experimental site to test the impact of making Pell grants available to high school students in dual enrollment programs;
  • Expand the FAFSA completion initiative; and
  • Produce new customized college access guides and resources through the White House Initiatives on Educational Excellence for Hispanics and Education Excellence for African Americans and the Center for Faith Based and Neighborhood Partnerships.

Department to Release College Ratings System

As part of the President’s college affordability agenda announced last year, the Department of Education has been working to create a college ratings system that it plans to unveil before the end of the year. The Department has worked with stakeholders to develop the metrics that would be used to rate colleges and universities based on its three key principles – access, affordability, and outcomes – but many stakeholders have expressed concerns about how the ratings system may be structured. While President Obama originally proposed to tie federal financial aid to the college ratings system, it is unlikely to occur given that it would require Congressional action and Republicans in both chambers have noted their concerns over the proposed system.

Department Releases Teacher Preparation Proposed Rule

The Department of Education recently released its teacher preparation proposed rule to strengthen current teacher preparation programs and hold these programs accountable to ensure that they are preparing K-12 teachers well for the classroom. The proposed rule will require states to report on all programs in their state, including alternative certification programs, as opposed to only reporting on teacher preparation programs at institutions of higher education as is currently required. After collecting comments on the proposed rule, the Department plans to release a final rule in September 2015 and states will have one year from that time to work with stakeholders to design a teacher preparation accountability and data collection system. Academic Year 2016-17 will be the first year that the Department collects data on teacher preparation programs under the new systems, and a report card for each state will be published for the general public in April 2018. Also, the Department plans to tie the data from the report cards to the eligibility for Teacher Education Assistance for College and Higher Education (TEACH) grants starting in July 2020. Comments on the proposed rule are due February 2, 2015.

Education Department Makes Improvements to Student Loan Servicing

On Monday, December 8, the Department of Education Office of Federal Student Aid (FSA) will publish a comment request seeking information related to third party servicer data collection. The Department is seeking approval of a Third Party Servicer Data Collection form to validate the information reported by higher education institutions regarding servicers administering Title IV student aid programs on an institution’s behalf.  It also seeks information related to the effective oversight of such entities.  Comments are due on or around January 7, 2015.

In late November, FSA issued a request for information (RFI) on how to improve borrower satisfaction and outcomes as the office manages a growing portfolio of Title IV student loans.  Specifically, the RFI seeks feedback on: how to efficiently and effectively manage a growing portfolio in a manner that will improve borrower satisfaction and outcomes; provide common borrower experiences; and allow for consolidated reporting of financial information, borrower data, etc., consistent with Federal accounting and audit requirements. FSA is particularly interested in information related to alternative approaches to its multi-servicer, multi-system contract model, including “the use of a single servicing platform, the use of specialized vendors to provide discrete services such as call center operations, and opportunities to leverage broader commercial servicing models within the student loan environment.” Responses to this RFI are due January 30, 2015.

White House to Hold Early Learning Summit

On Wednesday, December 10, the White House will host a Summit on Early Learning, which will bring together a broad coalition of stakeholders committed to expanding access to high-quality early education. The President is expected to announce the winners of this year’s federal Preschool Development Grants and Early Head Start-Child Care Partnership Grants – an investment of $750 million to expand preschool programs and improve access to high-quality care.  Several private sector commitments to expand early learning opportunities also will be announced at the event.