This update describes two recent Higher Education Opportunity Act (HEOA) developments. On December 31, 2008, the U.S. Department of Education published a notice of establishment of negotiated rulemaking committees to develop regulations related to HEOA amendments to Title IV of the Higher Education Act of 1965, as amended. Title IV pertains to the federal student financial aid programs. Nominations for negotiators to serve on the committees were due by January 23, 2009.1 On December 31, 2008, the department also published a Dear Colleague letter that summarizes HEOA.2 Both documents are available on the Education Department’s HEOA Web site.  

Negotiated Rulemaking Committees  

According to the department’s notice, the committees will formulate regulations to implement HEOA amendments to Title IV and to address certain other matters related to accreditation that were identified during negotiated rulemaking in 2007, but were not addressed in published regulations. The five committees will cover (1) lender/general loan issues, (2) school-based loan issues, (3) accreditation, (4) discretionary grants, and (5) general and non-loan programmatic issues, respectively. The department’s notice details topics each committee is likely to address.  

The notice explains the department will select participants for committees that represent interests that the proposed regulations will affect significantly. HEOA includes a new requirement that individuals selected must have demonstrated expertise or experience in relevant subjects under negotiation. Committees may create subgroups that would involve additional individuals who are not committee members. Committee meetings will be public.  

The notice anticipates that negotiations will begin in February 2009, but acknowledges that the change in administration may affect the department’s negotiated rulemaking plans. The schedule in the notice was developed to "ensure" publication of final regulations by November 1, 2009, which is the statutory deadline for regulations to become effective July 1, 2010.  

Dear Colleague Letter  

The Dear Colleague letter provides a section-by-section summary of HEOA provisions with little interpretive gloss. The letter includes a chart that groups HEOA provisions by effective date. The letter notes that affected parties must take steps to comply with HEOA by applicable effective dates, but also explains that “[b]ecause this will require program participants to implement a large number of new provisions before receiving guidance from the [d]epartment, during subsequent reviews of compliance with the HEOA, [the department] will take into account any written guidance that had been provided by [the department] during the period under review or, as applicable, the absence of such guidance.”