E-Update for January 17, 2023
The information covered below is from January 1 to 13.
- On January 4, the Biden Administration announced a list of regulatory changes that federal agencies plan to issue in the coming months.
- On January 10, the U.S. Department of Education (USED) announced new proposed rules to revise the Income-Driven Repayment (IDR) program.
- On January 11, USED hosted the fourth “Raising the Bar” convening of education leaders, researchers, and stakeholders to discuss evidence-based strategies for educator preparation and retention.
Biden Administration releases Fall 2022 Unified Agenda focusing on higher education policies: On January 4, the Biden Administration announced a list of regulatory changes that federal agencies plan to issue in the coming months. These include a number of proposed rules related to higher education, including:
- Federal TRIO Programs: The Secretary seeks to update eligibility requirements for the programs, which assist low-income students in preparing for and enrolling in higher education.
- College Accreditation: The Department plans to review and update accrediting regulations and procedures related to institutional eligibility for Federal student financial aid. This also includes state authorization for accreditation and institutional eligibility.
- Return to Title IV: The Department will review the processes that institutions must undergo when returning federal financial aid after a student withdraws enrollment.
- Cash Management: The Administration plans to write new rules to “ensure that students have and maintain timely access to student aid” when disbursed by their institutions.
- Third-Party Servicers: Third-party servicers like online program managers (OPMs) have drawn attention by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) and Congressional Democrats for lack of oversight of recruitment practices and tuition revenue-sharing agreements. Regulations under review include, “existing guidance on third-party servicers; reporting requirements; financial or other compliance requirements; and past performance requirements as a component of ongoing institutional eligibility for participation in Federal student financial aid.”
- Improving Use of Deferments and Forbearances: The Department intends to update regulations related to “standards and requirements” for issuing forbearances and deferments will be the focus of review, particularly income-driven repayment regulations.
- Distance Education: The Department seeks to change the definition of distance education.
A notice of intent will be released in April for each of the policies listed. Additionally, the final rule on Title IX is set to be released in May, which includes amended protections for sex-based discrimination and specific protections for pregnant students.
Biden Administration announces new changes to the Income-Driven Repayment program and intent to highlight colleges and universities that provide “low financial value” to students: On January 10, the U.S. Department of Education (USED) announced new proposed rules to revise the Income-Driven Repayment (IDR) program. The broad contours of these proposed changes were first rolled out in August, as part of the Administration’s announcement on its intent to cancel federal student loan debt. The proposed regulations amend the existing Revised Pay As You Earn (REPAYE) program to:
- Increase the income limits before a borrower has to make payments:
- The proposed REPAYE program would allow individual borrowers with annual incomes around $30,000 or less to have $0 monthly payments.
- For borrowers with a family of four or more, the threshold would be around $62,000 in annual income.
- For borrowers with undergraduate loans who have income above those thresholds, the revised REPAYE program would cut monthly payments in half (from 10% to 5% of discretionary income).
- Payments on graduate loan debt would be 10% of discretionary income.
- Parent borrowers would not be eligible for the plan.
- It would also shorten the period of repayment before loans are forgiven from 20 years to as short as 10 years for borrowers with $12,000 or less in cumulative debt (adding an additional year of repayment for every additional $1,000 borrowed).
According to the accompanying fact sheet from the Department, the new plan “would substantially reduce monthly debt burdens and lifetime payments, especially for low and middle-income borrowers, community college students, and borrowers who work in public service” and would result in nearly $2,000 a year in savings for the typical graduate of a four-year public university.
In addition to changes to the IDR program, USED also released a Request for Information (RFI) on how it should execute its plan to compile and publish a list of institutions that provide “low financial value” to students. During the coming 30-day public comment period, USED is seeking input on “which metrics and methodology should be used to determine which programs should come with warnings” for future students. Once the list is released, institutions could be required to submit improvement plans. The announcement also indicated that the Department plans to attach corrective conditions for institutions’ exhibiting “signs of distress or concerning behavior” during the regular certification process.
USED Secretary Miguel Cardona noted that, “We’re changing the culture that higher education is unaffordable in America…with historic changes that would make student loan repayment more affordable and manageable than ever before.” In a statement, incoming House Education and Workforce Committee Chairwoman Virginia Foxx (R-NC) harshly criticized the proposed changes: “Expansions of already generous repayment options, institutional shame lists, and other failed policies of the past won’t lower the cost of college for students and families. It does, however, turn the federal loan program into an untargeted grant with complete disregard for the taxpayers that fund it.” USED expects to begin implementation of the program later this year. The text of the NPRM is here; the text of the RFI is here.
U.S. Department of Education (USED):
USED’s Office of Civil Rights (OCR) releases new fact sheet on protection from discrimination based on shared ancestry or ethnic characteristics: On January 4, OCR released a new fact sheet explaining how Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (Title VI) protects students who experience discrimination based on their actual or perceived shared ancestry or ethnic characteristics or citizenship or residency in a country with a dominant religion or distinct religious identity. More specifically, the fact sheet describes ways this protection extends to students who are or are perceived to be Jewish, Christian, Muslim, Sikh, Hindu, Buddhist, or of another religious group. Additionally, the fact sheet provides examples of incidents that raise Title VI concerns, and how individuals can file a complaint with OCR. The release, issued by Assistant Secretary Catherine Lhamon, referenced the rise in anti-Semitic incidents across the country, including in schools, and emphasized OCR’s commitment to investigating and resolving complaints.
USED hosts fourth “Raising the Bar” event centered on educator preparation in support of academic recovery: On January 11, USED hosted a convening of education leaders, researchers, and stakeholders to discuss evidence-based strategies and programs to boost student literacy and math outcomes. The session was the fourth in a monthly series that will highlight strategies for education leaders to accelerate pandemic-related academic recovery. The event included three panels with different education leaders discussing teacher preparation strategies: the first with leaders from New Mexico detailing the success of the state’s teacher residency program; the second discussing strategies to eliminate teacher shortages; and the third with state and local leaders speaking about their approach to diversifying the workforce.
In the first panel, Dr. Kurt Steinhaus, New Mexico’s Secretary of Education, spoke about the components of the state’s teacher residency program that have made it successful in training and retaining teachers: its focus on a full year of clinical experience, pairing student teachers with a carefully-selected co-teacher with at least five years of experience, increased teaching salaries to be competitive with the region and surrounding states, and a $35,000 stipend for teachers in residency. The second panel discussed teacher retention strategies, and panelists at the state- and university-level emphasized the importance of mentorship and well-designed induction into their schools. Rhena Jasey-Goodman, Induction Coordinator at Montclair State University, a public university in New Jersey, shared that the university’s induction program features clear teacher expectations, community partnerships, and focused professional development, which has led to increases in teacher retention. The final panel covered methods to diversify the teacher workforce, where Dr. Cassandra Herring, President and CEO of the Branch Alliance for Educator Diversity, emphasized how institutions of higher education should partner with districts to co-design pathways to leadership to teachers. USED Deputy Secretary Cindy Marten concluded the event, where she reiterated the importance of both hands-on teacher training and effective programs for teacher retention in supporting “resilient, talented, and innovative” teachers.
Incoming Chairman of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee, Senator Bernie Sanders outlines education priorities for the new Congress: On January 2, Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) announced his education priorities for his leadership of the Senate HELP Committee. In a YouTube video shared to his Twitter account, Sen. Sanders discussed the lingering needs of America’s learning environments, stating, “our teachers and our children are existing classrooms with broken chairs, flooded buildings, and inadequate staff support.” Sen. Sanders added his support for addressing “inadequate” pay for teachers across the country, calling educators “heroes and heroines.” He then turned to the challenges facing higher education, noting the increased costs of college and trade programs, and the inability of families to support children in pursuing higher education. He also called attention to the 45 million Americans struggling to pay their student loans, but did not include any additional information on plans for student loan forgiveness. Sen. Sanders concluded with remarks on the “wildly dysfunctional child care system,” emphasizing the challenges around cost and lack of availability that families have continued to face and have been exacerbated by the pandemic. He shared, “We cannot continue to treat [children] and their parents the way we currently do. We have to work towards creating the best educated workforce in the world, one that prepares our kids to succeed in a highly competitive global economy…one that recognizes that a high-quality public education system from childhood to adulthood is the right of all and not just the privilege of a few.”
Senate Appropriations Chairwoman Patty Murray and Ranking Member Susan Collins issue bipartisan commitment to passing appropriations bills on time: On January 10, new Senate Appropriations Chairwoman Patty Murray (D-WA) and Ranking Member Susan Collins (R-ME) issued a joint statement sharing their bipartisan commitment to passing Senate appropriations bills through before the end of the current Fiscal Year. The leaders emphasized the “responsibility” for Congress to work across the aisle, “start[ing] with funding the government in a responsible and bipartisan manner.” They added, “As the incoming Chair and Vice Chair of the Senate Appropriations Committee, we take our responsibility to govern seriously and look forward to working in a bipartisan way here in the Senate to find common ground and move our country forward.”
Congresswoman Virginia Foxx named Chairwoman of House Education and Workforce Committee: On January 9, Congresswoman Virginia Foxx (R-NC) was voted the Chairwoman of the House Education and Workforce Committee – formerly the Education and Labor Committee – by the Republican Steering Committee. The vote was sent to the full Republican conference, where she is expected to win. In a statement following the vote, Congresswoman Foxx shared some of her priorities for her leadership of the Committee, including, “protect[ing] the rights of workers, job creators, students and parents.” She expressed her focus on oversight of the Biden Administration, stating,” To officials in the Biden administration: think about investing in a parking space on Capitol Hill—you will be here often. Conducting vigorous and sustained oversight of the federal government, especially the Departments of Education and Labor, will be among my top priorities.” Congresswoman Foxx described the Biden Administration’s recent regulation proposals and changes “reckless and destructive” and shared that, “Americans should be free to work, build, and educate their children as they see fit.”
Congresswoman Foxx has been a vocal critic of the Biden Administration’s loan forgiveness plan, and in August 2022, introduced the Responsible Education Assistance through Loan (REAL) Reforms Act as an alternative. The legislation proposed targeting loan relief for the borrowers most in need, prohibiting the Secretary of Education from issuing regulations without Congressional approval, limiting borrowing, and eliminating the Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) Program. Foxx has also called for oversight of federal COVID-19 relief funding, including a response to recent national declines in test scores and unspent federal relief funds.
As noted, when Republicans took control of the House, they changed the name of the committee. In a release explaining the change, Foxx notes that, “workforce is a much better term to use because we are talking about all the people in this country who make a living.”
House Education and Workforce Chairwoman Virginia Foxx renews oversight inquiries to President Biden and Administration officials: On January 12, House Education and Workforce Committee Chairwoman Virginia Foxx (R-NC) sent letters to President Biden, USED Secretary Miguel Cardona, and seven other Administration officials with renewed oversight requests. Each letter raises oversight requests that Chairwoman Foxx previously addressed to the officials in the previous Congress. More specifically, the letter to President Biden requests information about the Administration’s continuation of the designation of the COVID-19 public health emergency in May 2022. The letter to Secretary Cardona raises a September 2022 request for a briefing to present the actions the Department is taking to promote free speech and academic freedom on college campuses. In a press release announcing the letters, Chairwoman Foxx wrote, “Congress has a responsibility to deliver accountability and transparency to the American people… I sent 139 oversight letters to the agencies under the Committee’s jurisdiction in the 117th Congress, and I plan to continue my oversight efforts on Americans’ behalf during the 118th.”
Supreme Court (SCOTUS):
SCOTUS sets February 28 to hear oral arguments on student loan cases; Biden Administration stresses legal authority to forgive loans in opening brief: On December 19, the Supreme Court announced that it would hear oral arguments on February 28, for both cases challenging the Biden Administration’s loan forgiveness plan. The Court announced earlier in December, in separate announcements, that it would hear the two cases, which challenge the legality of the Administration plans in different ways. This timeline announcement could lead to a decision from the Court in June 2023.
On December 12, the Supreme Court announced that it will take up a second case over the legality of the Biden Administration’s student loan forgiveness program during the February 2023 session, which could mean a decision as early as June 2023. The student loan forgiveness program — which would cancel up to $20,000 in federal student loans for Pell Grant recipients and up to $10,000 for non-Pell Grant recipients — will remain on hold leading up to consideration by the Supreme Court. On December 1, the Supreme Court announced that it would consider on a fast-track a case involving six Republican-led states – Nebraska, Missouri, Arkansas, Iowa, Kansas and South Carolina – to block the program. In that case, the states are seeking to block the debt relief program claiming that it was not Congressionally-authorized and would, among other impacts, negatively affect state tax revenue. The second lawsuit stems from a separate case in which Federal Judge Mark Pittman of the Northern District of Texas ruled that the student loan forgiveness program was an “an unconstitutional exercise of Congress’s legislative power and must be vacated,” on November 10. In his ruling, Judge Pittman said that USED lacks the authority to implement the program and is “one of the largest exercises of legislative power without congressional authority in the history of the United States.” Judge Pittman also ruled that the Department did not follow appropriate rulemaking procedures allowing for the public to provide comments on proposed actions. In this case, the Job Creators Network filed a lawsuit on behalf of two student loan borrowers who claimed to be ineligible for loan forgiveness.
Additionally, the Biden Administration’s opening brief filings were submitted on January 4. Consistent with previous arguments, the brief argues that the Administration has the legal authority to issue loan forgiveness under the Higher Education Relief Opportunities for Students (“HEROES”) Act. The HEROES Act was signed into law in 2003 by President George W. Bush and grants USED the authority to waive laws around the federal student loan program in case of national emergency, in this case, issue a targeted loan cancellation directed at addressing the financial harms of the COVID-19 pandemic. The brief notes that Secretary Cardona’s ability to issue loan forgiveness “fall comfortably within the plan text” of the law, and adds that loan forgiveness provides a path to begin loan repayment after the extended loan repayment pause. Addressing the authority of the Secretary to bypass Congressional approval, the brief writes that Congress intended for the Secretary to have broad authority under the law, explaining, “Other provisions of the HEROES Act underscore the breadth of the authority Congress conferred on the Secretary to determine eligibility criteria and define the scope of relief to be afforded.” The brief also argues that the Court should throw out the case because the Republican-led states and Texas borrowers lack the legal standing to bring the case, but asserts that the legal authority is present in both cases.
Since the application for loan forgiveness was announced on October 14, the White House has said that nearly 26 million people have applied and almost 16 million applications have already been approved; however, USED stopped accepting applications due to the injunction.
Upcoming Events (Congress & Administration):
- On January 18 at 1:00 pm, USED is hosting a webinar titled, “Building Stronger Connections: Selecting High-Quality Evidence-based Strategies for Safe, Healthy, and Supportive Schools Part II.” The webinar is the third of four in a series that USED is hosting to provide information for the Stronger Connections Grant Program, which is funded through the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act (BSCA), enacted in June 2022. The BSCA included $1 billion through Title IV, Part A of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) for states to competitively award subgrants to high-need school districts to establish safer and healthier learning environments. This webinar will focus on how schools can select evidence-based practices to ensure healthy learning environments for all students, and highlight the importance of strong implementation of multi-tiered systems of support and selecting trauma-informed and restorative strategies. Additionally, presenters will include information on how community violence affects school climate and student health, and the importance of addressing trauma from community violence. More information on the webinar series is here and registration for this session is here.
- On January 27 at 11:30 am, the President’s Board of Advisors on Historically Black Colleges and Universities is hosting an open meeting. The meeting agenda will include updates from the Board Chairperson, USED’s Office of the Under Secretary, Executive Director of the Initiative, and remarks from Keisha Lance Bottoms, Senior Advisor to the President for Public Engagement. Each of the Board’s subcommittees (Preservation and Growth, Infrastructure, and Finance and Career and Research) will also present, and Wayne A.I. Frederick, president of Howard University and/or David Wilson, president of Morgan State University will brief the Board on the Association for HBCU R2s. Finally, the Board will discuss the first report to the President. More information can be found here.
Upcoming Events (Outside Organizations):
- On January 17 at 3:00 pm, the Campaign for Grade-Level Reading and New America are co-hosting a webinar titled, “Learning How States, Districts and Educators Are Strengthening Kindergarten.” Participants will discuss the role, opportunities and challenges for states and districts to transform kindergarten for children. Presenters will discuss the ways state and local education agencies are already working to embrace families, culture and equity to strengthen kindergarten. Panelists include: Kim Holland, Gwinnett County Public Schools, Georgia; Stacy Macri, Abbot-Downing School, New Hampshire; Geraldine “Jeri” Robinson, Boston Public Schools Committee; Dr. Jason Sachs, Boston Public Schools; and Dr. Pamela Truelove-Walker, Alabama Department of Early Childhood Education. More information and registration here.
- On January 18 at 3:00 pm, the Learning Policy Institute (LPI), AASA, The School Superintendents Association, Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL), and the Science of Learning & Development (SoLD) Alliance will host a webinar titled, “Whole Child Policy: Transforming Learning Environments.” The webinar will take a deep dive into actions states can take to transform learning environments based on the science of learning and development, including creating safe and inclusive, relationship-centered classrooms and schools. Experts and state leaders will discuss essential approaches to creating whole child environments, and share lessons learned in implementing their chosen strategies. Speakers include: Pamela Cantor, Founder and Senior Science Advisor of Turnaround for Children; Teri Lawler, Education Associate at the Delaware Department of Education; Lakeisha Steele, Vice President of Policy at CASEL; and Gwen Perea Warniment, Director of the Legislative Education Study Committee. More information and registration here.
- On January 19 at 2:00 pm, the Hunt Institute will host a webinar titled, “Postsecondary Pathways: Supporting Transfer Students.” The webinar aims to engage policymakers and education leaders to learn more about what barriers transfer students face, how institutions can better support transfer students, and the ways state education policy influences the ability to transfer seamlessly between institutions. Panelists include: Dr. Rachel Desmarais, President at Vance-Granville Community College; The Honorable James Gailliard, Representative at the North Carolina General Assembly; and Dr. Stephanie Sowl, Program Officer at the ECMC Foundation. More information and registration here.
- On January 19 at 2:00 pm, Education Week will host a webinar titled, “Education Equity: Where We Go From Here.” Presenters will discuss the state of equity in a handful of key areas, including segregated schooling, educational technology, students’ access to advanced academics and English-language instruction, and school discipline, and explore what’s next. More information and registration here.
Publications (Congress & Administration):
- On January 12, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) released a new report titled, “Higher Education: Department of Education Should Improve Enforcement Procedures Regarding Substantial Misrepresentation by Colleges.” The GAO found significant inconsistencies and delays in investigating colleges and universities for misrepresentation around programs, costs, or graduate employment. Findings showed that reorganization, leadership turnover, and a lack of finalized procedures have prevented USED from completing investigations into the highest-risk colleges. The report was ordered by Former Chairman and current Ranking Member of the House Education and Workforce Committee Bobby Scott (D-VA), who called attention to the lack of action by Trump Administration officials, stating, “Unfortunately, as this report confirms, the previous administration chose to effectively ignore its responsibility to hold colleges accountable for misrepresenting themselves to students and the public.” The GAO made two recommendations to USED, both of which officials have agreed with: (1) complete written procedures for substantial misrepresentation investigations, including for selecting colleges and conducting investigations; and (2) update written procedures for imposing penalties, as appropriate, on colleges that engaged in substantial misrepresentation.
Publications (Outside Organizations):
- On January 10, the National Center for Research on Education Access and Choice (REACH) published a report titled, “How Charter Authorizers Shape Equity: A Cross-State Analysis of Charter Applications.” Analyzing how charter school authorizers advance equity-focused charter schools, the report found that while some authorizers say that equity is a key focus, others are primarily centered on school choice or market logic. Additionally, findings indicate that authorizers who focus on equity tend to send stronger signals to applicants about its value. The report highlights that authorizers are an often overlooked point of leverage for policymakers and organizations that seek to open new charter schools.
- On January 11, New Leaders, in collaboration with Clark Atlanta University, Morehouse College, and Spelman College, published a new report titled, “The Shoulder Tap: Educators of Color on the Leadership Representation Gap and What We Can Do About It.” The report emphasizes the urgency for recruiting and retaining school leaders of color, as, “studies show that all students, and especially students of color, benefit when they are led by educators with diverse racial, ethnic, and cultural backgrounds.” Authors examine existing research and present examples from educators of color who are working to close the school leadership representation gap. The report features five recommendations for policymakers to increase school leader diversity, including through direct investments in pipelines and pathways, as well as transparent recruitment and hiring practices.
Keeping Texas School Construction Costs Down Act of 2023: A bill to amend the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 to create a safe harbor for certain perpetual trust funds.
Sponsor: Rep. Lloyd Doggett (D-TX)
A bill to amend part A of title I of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 to allow States, in accordance with State law, to let Federal funds for the education of disadvantaged children follow low-income children to the public school, charter school, accredited private school, or supplemental educational service program they attend, and for other purposes.
Sponsor: Rep. Andy Biggs (R-AZ)
A bill to expand opportunity for Native American children through additional options in education, and for other purposes.
Sponsor: Rep. Andy Biggs (R-AZ)
A bill to repeal the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act and the Health Care and Education Reconciliation Act of 2010.
Sponsor: Rep. Andy Biggs (R-AZ)
A bill to direct the Election Assistance Commission to carry out a pilot program under which the Commission shall provide funds to local educational agencies for initiatives to provide voter registration information to secondary school students in the 12th grade.
Sponsor: Rep. Al Green (D-TX)
A bill to amend title 11 of the United States Code to modify the dischargeability of debts for certain educational payments and loans.
Sponsor: Rep. Steve Cohen (D-TN)
A bill to prohibit the provision of Federal funds to a labor organization the members of which are education professionals.
Sponsor: Rep. Ronny Jackson (R-TX)
A bill to prohibit the provision of Federal funds to any State or local educational agency that denies or prevents participation in constitutionally-protected prayer in schools, and for other purposes.
Sponsor: Rep. David Rouzer (R-NC)
A bill to provide for the elimination of the Department of Education, and for other purposes.
Sponsor: Rep. David Rouzer (R-NC)
A bill to prohibit Federal education funds from being provided to elementary schools that do not require teachers to obtain written parental consent prior to teaching lessons specifically related to gender identity, sexual orientation, or transgender studies, and for other purposes.
Sponsor: Rep. Jeff Van Drew (R-NJ)
A bill to amend the Higher Education Act of 1965 to expand eligibility for participation in the Federal Pell Grant program to certain trade schools.
Sponsor: Rep. Robert Wittman (R-VA)
A bill to prohibit Federal funds from being provided to an institution of higher education unless the institution has banned use of TikTok on electronic devices, and for other purposes.
Sponsor: Rep. Brian Babin (R-TX)
A bill to amend the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 to promote compliance through education, to clarify the requirements for demand letters, to provide for a notice and cure period before the commencement of a private civil action, and for other purposes.
Sponsor: Rep. Ken Calvert (R-CA)
A bill to establish a grant program for nebulizers in elementary and secondary schools.
Sponsor: Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX)
A bill to amend the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 to ensure that local educational agencies applying for certain Federal education funds post the curriculum for elementary and secondary schools online, and for other purposes.
Sponsor: Rep. Scott Fitzgerald (R-WI)
A bill to amend title 38, United States Code, to ensure that a member of the Armed Forces, granted a general discharge under honorable conditions on the sole basis that such member failed to obey a lawful order to receive a vaccine for COVID-19, is eligible for certain educational assistance administered by the Secretary of Veterans Affairs.
Sponsor: Rep. Scott Fitzgerald (R-WI)
A bill to authorize the Secretary of Education to carry out a grant program to assist local educational agencies with ensuring that each elementary and secondary school has at least one registered nurse on staff.
Sponsor: Rep. Frederica Wilson (D-FL)
A bill to amend title 11 of the United States Code to stop abusive student loan collection practices in bankruptcy cases.
Sponsor: Rep. Shri Thanedar (D-MI)