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E-Updates

Jan. 24, 2024

E-Update for January 24, 2024

The information included below is for the period of January 5, 2024, through January 18, 2024.

Highlights:

  • On January 17, the Biden Administration announced its Improving Student Achievement Agenda for 2024, which is an initiative focused on strategies that will accelerate academic performance for students.

  • On January 11, House Education and the Workforce Committee Chairwoman Virginia Foxx (R-NC) introduced H.R. 6951, the “College Cost Reduction Act,” which is aimed at lowering college costs for students and families.

  • On January 19, President Biden signed into law a Continuing Resolution (CR) to extend federal government funding through March 1 for the agencies funded through the Military Construction/Veterans Affairs, Transportation/Housing and Urban Development, Agriculture, and Energy and Water Appropriations bills. Additionally, the “laddered” CR would extend federal funding for the remaining federal agencies, including those funded through the Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies (Labor/HHS) Appropriations bill, through March 8.

Administration:

White House:

Biden Administration announces Improving Student Achievement Agenda for 2024: On January 17, the Biden Administration announced its Improving Student Achievement Agenda for 2024, which is an initiative focused on strategies that will accelerate academic performance for students. The agenda is focused on three evidence-based strategies that improve student learning: (1) increasing student attendance; (2) providing high-dosage tutoring; and (3) increasing summer learning and extended or afterschool learning time. A fact sheet highlights states and districts that have implemented these strategies leading to evidence of improvements in the academic performance of students. Additionally, the Biden Administration emphasized that it is committed to urging state and district action, including publishing new school improvement guidance and specific actions that states can take aligned to the three evidence-based strategies. The Administration is also calling on colleges and universities to continue to build on the work of the National Partnership for Student Success (NPSS) by using at least 15% of their federal Work-Study funds for college students employed in NPSS roles. The announcement included the release of a new resource from the U.S. Department of Education (USED) with more information about quality components that states and districts should use to design their attendance, tutoring, and extended learning programs. The Biden Administration also announced that several philanthropic and national organizations are joining the Administration’s commitment to supporting academic acceleration, including Attendance Works, National Summer Learning Association, and the Wallace Foundation.

President Biden announces student loan forgiveness for borrowers enrolled in SAVE plan and originally borrowed less than $12,000: On January 12, President Joe Biden announced that student loan forgiveness will automatically be issued for borrowers who initially borrowed less than $12,000 and are enrolled in the Saving on a Valuable Education (SAVE) Plan. These borrowers also must have made payments for 10 years. First announced in August 2023, the Biden Administration’s income-driven repayment (IDR) plan – known as the SAVE Plan – cuts undergraduate loan payments from 10% to 5% of a borrower’s discretionary income. The forgiveness will start next month, and President Biden’s statement notes that it “will particularly help community college borrowers, low-income borrowers, and those struggling to repay their loans.” A statement from the USED added that the January announcement is “accelerating this benefit months ahead of the date previously laid out in the Biden-Harris Administration’s final regulations for implementing the SAVE plan, which is July 1, 2024.” Responding to the announcement, House Education and the Workforce Committee Ranking Member Virginia Foxx (R-NC) issued a statement expressing that the action was adding to “an already raging student debt fire.”

President Biden renominates Julie Su for Secretary of Labor: On January 8, President Biden renominated Julie Su for U.S. Secretary of Labor after the Senate did not hold a confirmation vote for Su during the first session of the 118th Congress. President Biden first nominated Acting Secretary Su on February 23, 2023. Previously, Su was confirmed as Deputy Secretary of Labor in July 2021. Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee Chairman Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and House Education and the Workforce Committee Ranking Member Bobby Scott (D-VA) both issued statements supporting Su’s renomination. Chairman Sanders wrote that “beyond a shadow of a doubt…she is the right person for the job.” Senate HELP Committee Ranking Member Bill Cassidy (R-LA) released a statement in December after the nomination failed to receive a Senate floor vote stating, “We need a qualified Secretary of Labor who can impartially enforce the law, properly manage a department, and refrain from partisan activism. Ms. Su failed to show her ability to do any of those three things.” Additionally, House Education and the Workforce Chairwoman Virginia Foxx (R-NC) and Workforce Protections Subcommittee Chairman Kevin Kiley (R-CA) sent a letter to President Biden on January 4, requesting he not renominate Su, writing, “As Acting Secretary of Labor, Ms. Su has continued to pursue a radical agenda against that of the American worker… Under Acting Secretary Su’s leadership, [the U.S. Department of Labor] has demonstrated a clear and persistent disregard for Congress’ role in conducting oversight.”

U.S. Department of Education (USED):

U.S. Department of Education (USED) issues notice of proposed rulemaking for regulations that govern all federal grants awarded by the Department: On January 11, the USED issued a notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM) for the Education Department General Administrative Regulations (EDGAR), the rules that govern how the Department awards and manages grants. The notice summarizes a number of proposed revisions to the rule, including improving public access to research and evaluation for Department-funded projects and expanding and clarifying flexibility for the Department in administering its grants programs. The proposed rule would also align EDGAR with updates in the most recent reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 (ESEA). This would include revising the tiers of evidence in EDGAR to incorporate and parallel those in the ESEA and specifying the procedures used to give special consideration to an application supported by evidence. Comments on the proposed rule must be submitted by February 26, 2024.

USED publishes documents outlining the process for state education agencies (SEAs) to request liquidation extensions of American Rescue Plan (ARP) funds: On January 9, the USED published an updated Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) document and a template for ARP Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) and Emergency Assistance to Non-Public Schools (EANS) Liquidation Extension Requests. If the USED approves a liquidation extension, states (or subgrantees) will have additional time (up to an additional 14 months after January 28, 2025) to draw down COVID-relief funds. According to a letter from the USED, grantees may request liquidation extensions for any allowable costs of the ARP ESSER or EANS programs, provided such costs are properly obligated by September 30, 2024. Grantees are encouraged to submit ARP ESSER or EANS liquidation extension requests by December 31, 2024, to minimize disruptions in accessing funds, though requests submitted after this date will still be reviewed. The letter states that the Department “encourages grantees to highlight investments in three of the evidence-based strategies that can significantly contribute to improved student performance: increasing daily student attendance; providing high-quality tutoring; and increasing access to before, after, and summer learning and extended learning time.” Additionally, states “may also describe other activities that contribute to academic success,” such as, “[p]roviding counseling services to address mental health needs.” The letter concludes that the liquidation extension process “is designed to ensure that every possible resource is available to continue our collective work to address the pandemic’s impacts on our students, schools, and families.”

USED holds first round of negotiated rulemaking for Institutional Quality and Program Integrity:

From January 8 to 11, the USED held the first negotiated rulemaking session for Institutional Quality and Program Integrity. Ahead of the session, the USED released issue papers to cover each of the following issues for discussion by the rulemaking committee during negotiations:

  • USED Secretary’s recognition of accrediting agencies and related issues

  • Institutional eligibility, including state authorization

  • The definition of distance education as it pertains to clock hour programs and reporting for students who enroll primarily online

  • Return of Title IV of Higher Education Act of 1965 funds

  • Cash management to address disbursement of student funds

  • Eligibility requirements for participants in the Federal TRIO Programs

According to reporting from the National Association for Student Financial Aid Administrators (NASFAA), USED Under Secretary James Kvaal delivered remarks at the beginning of the session, stating, “We hope that these new regulations will help students get the most from their education and from the federal investment in college affordability.” While each of the topics was discussed at the Committee meeting, two of the key issues discussed during the meeting included state authorization and recognition of accrediting agencies. Regarding permissible activities of state authorization reciprocity agreements, the Committee discussed “limiting membership on the governing boards of reciprocity agreements to state representatives and requiring institutions involved in reciprocity agreements to report student complaints to the student’s state,” according to reporting from the Institute for College Access and Success. The USED wrote in its corresponding issue paper on state authorization that “the current reciprocity system is influenced by regulated entities, allows manipulation to evade State rules, and prioritizes administrative convenience over student and taxpayer protection.” While it is not clear yet the extent to which the Committee may recommend limitations, the Institute for College Access and Success reported that, “[c]onsumer- and student-focused negotiators expressed support for [US]ED’s proposal to ensure state authorization remains within states’ control by limiting participation in reciprocity agreement boards to state representatives and members of the public without direct institutional ties.”

Regarding accreditation, the proposed regulations would significantly scale back changes to regulations made during the Trump Administration to include a new emphasis on minimum requirements for accreditors. According to the Institute for College Access and Success, “[n]egotiators representing students, veterans, and consumer and civil rights groups all expressed support for the proposed changes…[and] noted the proposal could be strengthened in many places.” Conversely, the accreditation proposals were opposed by negotiators representing institutions and accrediting agencies, according to the Institute for College Access and Success, with, “[n]egotiators for these groups express[ing] concern that accreditation review is individualized for each institution, so setting bright-line standards was the wrong approach.”

On January 12, a Subcommittee also considered eligibility for TRIO programs, as the proposed regulations would expand eligibility for students, regardless of their immigration status. Current USED regulations restrict eligibility for TRIO programs to U.S. citizens or permanent residents. This is the first of three meetings of the Committee, with additional meetings scheduled for February 5-8 and March 4-7. Members of the public who wish to register to view the sessions or provide public testimony can find more information here.

USED Secretary Cardona travels to New Hampshire to speak about Public Service Loan Forgiveness and discuss the rise in antisemitism and Islamophobia on college campuses: On January 10, the USED Secretary Miguel Cardona traveled to New Hampshire to discuss Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) and the rise in antisemitism and Islamophobia on college campuses. In Concord, New Hampshire, Secretary Cardona met with several current and former teachers, as well as union members, who have either recently received PSLF or are in the process of working toward forgiveness. Secretary Cardona also visited Dartmouth College where he met with Dartmouth President Sian Beilock and participated in a roundtable discussion with students to discuss experiences on college campuses around current events in the Middle East, including the rise in antisemitic and Islamophobic events.

USED announces one million applications received following the launch of the new 2024-2025 FAFSA form: On January 8, the USED announced that it had received over one million applications following the launch of the new 2024-2025 Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA®) form. On December 30, USED’s Office for Federal Student Aid (FSA) soft-launched the 2024-2025 FAFSA, which expands eligibility for federal student aid, including Pell Grants, and provides a streamlined user experience. FSA stated that 610,000 new students from low-income backgrounds will be eligible to receive Federal Pell Grants, and the streamlined process allows for some students to answer as few as 18 questions. In the announcement, USED Secretary Miguel Cardona shared, “With the Better FAFSA now live 24/7, we are moving the federal financial aid application into the 21st century and in the process, putting affordable higher education within the reach of 610,000 students from families with low incomes who will now be eligible for Pell Grants for the very first time.”

USED withholds payments from certain student loan servicers: On January 5, the USED announced it would withhold payments from three student loan servicers - Aidvantage, EdFinancial, and Nelnet - as the servicers “failed to meet contractual obligations to send timely billing statements to a combined total of 758,000 borrowers for the first month of repayment.” Specifically, payments withheld totaled $2 million from Aidvantage, $161,000 from EdFinancial, and $13,000 from Nelnet. To address the impact of these errors on borrowers, the USED directed the three servicers to place affected borrowers into administrative forbearance until the issues were resolved, during which borrowers will not owe payments and any accrued interest will be adjusted to zero. The Department previously withheld $7.2 million in payments to student loan servicer Higher Education Loan Authority of the State of Missouri (MOHELA) for failing to send billing statements on time to 2.5 million borrowers. Addressing the issue in the context of borrowers return to repayment following the pandemic-related pause, USED Secretary Miguel Cardona said, “As millions of Americans return to repayment, the Department of Education will continue to engage in aggressive oversight of student loan servicers and put the interests of borrowers first. When unacceptable errors are uncovered, servicers should expect to be held accountable and borrowers should count on this administration to hold them harmless.”

USED awards $47 million to support school infrastructure investments: On January 4, the USED announced $47 million in nine new grant awards for school infrastructure projects aimed at bolstering the capacity of states and territories to support school districts in improving school facilities that will increase equitable access to healthy, sustainable, and modern learning environments for all students. Eight grantees received more than $37 million in grants through the Supporting America’s School Infrastructure (SASI) program, which invests in states and territories to support high-need local educational agencies (LEAs) in creating a healthy school infrastructure. One grant for $10 million was also awarded through the National Center on School Infrastructure (NCSI) program, which works as a national clearinghouse for states and localities to provide information on developing safe and equitable public school infrastructure. USED Secretary Miguel Cardona visited Victory Elementary School in Portsmouth, Virginia, with House Education and the Workforce Committee Ranking Member Bobby Scott (D-VA) and Senator Tim Kaine (D-VA) to announce a grant for Virginia and discuss how states, districts, and communities can improve school facilities. During the visit, Secretary Cardona shared, “Research has shown that modern, well-maintained facilities and healthy learning environments can help schools Raise the Bar by increasing student achievement, reducing absenteeism, and improving teacher retention.”

Federal Trade Commission:

Federal Trade Commission issues notice of proposed rulemaking to strengthen Children's Online Privacy Protection Act Rule: On January 11, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) issued a notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM) to amend the regulations for the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA). The COPPA Rule, which first went into effect in 2000, requires certain websites and other online services that collect personal information from children under the age of 13 to provide notice to parents and obtain verifiable parental consent before collecting, using, or disclosing personal information from these children. The rule also limits the personal data that websites and other online services can collect from children, limits how long they can retain such data, and requires that data be secure. In an announcement regarding the NPRM, the FTC states that “the proposed modifications are intended to respond to changes in technology and online practices, …streamline the rule,…[and] strengthen the FTC protection of personal information collected from children.” The FTC has proposed several specific changes to the rule, including, but not limited to: (1) requiring separate opt-in for targeted advertising; (2) a prohibition against conditioning a child’s participation on collection of personal information; and (3) limiting the “support for the internal operations” exception (which currently allows operators, under certain circumstances, to collect persistent identifiers without first getting parental consent if information will be used only to provide support for internal operations). Comments on the proposed rule must be submitted by March 11, 2024.

Congress:

Continuing Resolution (CR) extends federal funding through March 1 for four federal agencies and March 8 for remaining federal agencies following Johnson-Schumer agreement on overall spending levels for fiscal year (FY) 2024: On January 19, President Biden signed a CR to extend federal government funding through March 1 for the agencies funded through the Military Construction/Veterans Affairs, Transportation/Housing and Urban Development, Agriculture, and Energy and Water Appropriations bills. Additionally, the “laddered” CR would extend federal funding for the remaining federal agencies, including those funded through the Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies (Labor/HHS) Appropriations bill, through March 8. Previously, the Senate voted 77-18 to pass the CR on January 18. The House then passed the CR the same day by a vote of 314-108, with 107 House Republicans voting in favor of the CR, while 106 opposed the resolution. The CR continues federal funding at fiscal year (FY) 2023 levels and does not include controversial policy riders to allow negotiators additional time to draft final FY2024 appropriations bills. On January 14, House Speaker Mike Johnson (R-LA) issued a statement regarding the CR, writing, “Because the completion deadlines are upon us, a short continuing resolution is required to complete what House Republicans are working hard to achieve: an end to governance by omnibus, meaningful policy wins, and better stewardship of American tax dollars.”

Earlier this month, House Speaker Mike Johnson (R-LA) and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) announced an agreement on overall spending levels for FY2024. According to a joint statement from House Democratic Leader Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY) and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY), “The bipartisan topline appropriations agreement clears the way for Congress to act over the next few weeks in order to maintain important funding priorities for the American people and avoid a government shutdown… By securing the $772.7 billion for non-defense discretionary funding, we can protect key domestic priorities like veterans benefits, health care and nutrition assistance from the draconian cuts sought by right-wing extremists.” The overall level of $772.7 billion is essentially the same as the program funding level provided for non-defense, discretionary programs in FY2023, as well as the level included in the debt limit deal when taking into account an agreement reached between then Speaker Kevin McCarthy and President Biden to provide additional funding above the spending caps included in the underlying deal.

Senate Finance Committee Chairman Wyden and House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Smith announce bipartisan, bicameral legislation to enhance Child Tax Credit: On January 16, Senate Finance Committee Chairman Ron Wyden (D-OR) and House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Jason Smith (R-MO) introduced bipartisan legislation, H.R. 7204, the “Tax Relief for American Families and Workers Act of 2024,” which will enhance the Child Tax Credit (CTC), among other economic provisions. Specifically, the bill would expand access to the CTC by: (1) creating a phased increase to the refundable portion of the child tax credit for 2023, 2024, and 2025; (2) ensuring the CTC phase-in is applied fairly to families with multiple children; (3) creating flexibility for taxpayers to use either current- or prior-year income to calculate the child tax credit in 2024 or 2025; and (4) adjusting the tax credit for inflation starting in 2024. A summary of the bill also describes how the bill would expand innovation through research & development (R&D) expensing, expand the small business expensing cap, and increase the supply of low-income housing by enhancing the Low-Income Housing Tax Credit. Announcing the legislation, Chairman Wyden said, “Sixteen million kids from low-income families will be better off as a result of this plan, and…it’s a big deal to have this opportunity to pass pro-family policy that helps so many kids get ahead.” Chairman Smith added, “American families will benefit from this bipartisan agreement that provides greater tax relief, strengthens Main Street businesses, boosts our competitiveness with China, and creates jobs.” The House Ways and Means Committee approved H.R. 7204 out of committee on a bipartisan vote of 40-3 on January 19.

U.S. Senate:

Senate HELP Committee Ranking Member Cassidy and Senator Fetterman introduce bipartisan legislation to address antisemitism on college campuses: On January 11, Senate HELP Committee Ranking Member Bill Cassidy (R-LA) and Senator John Fetterman (D-PA) introduced S. 3580, the “Protecting Students on Campus Act of 2024,” to support college students in filing civil rights complaints if they experience violence or harassment on college campuses due to their heritage. A one-pager on the bill states that the bill would: (1) empower students and improve their awareness of how to report alleged civil rights violations by requiring institutions to post links on their websites on how to file a Title VI discrimination complaint, including accessible links to USED Office for Civil Rights (OCR)’s complaint website; (2) ensure institutions that receive federal funding properly handle discrimination complaints by requiring colleges and universities to report the number of civil rights complaints they receive and the actions they took to address the complaints; and (3) require the USED Assistant Secretary of Civil Rights to brief Congress monthly on the number of reports the OCR is receiving, broken down by type of discrimination, and plans are to work through those complaints. Announcing the legislation, Chairman Cassidy said, “This legislation holds colleges and universities accountable and ensures discrimination against students is never ignored.” Senator Fetterman added, “Amid a despicable rise in antisemitism and Islamophobia in our country, I am proud to introduce this bill with my colleague Senator Cassidy to empower students facing discrimination to take action and hold universities accountable in protecting students.”

U.S. House of Representatives:

House Education and the Workforce Committee Chairwoman Foxx introduces legislation aimed at lowering the cost of college: On January 11, House Education and the Workforce Committee Chairwoman Virginia Foxx (R-NC) introduced H.R. 6951, the “College Cost Reduction Act,” which is aimed at lowering college costs for students and families. According to the Chairwoman, the legislation is designed to ensure that clear, accessible, and personalized information about costs and return on investment are available to prospective students and families, as well as hold institutions financially responsible for the cost of degrees by funds colleges based on student outcomes. Specifically, a fact sheet from the Chairwoman states that the bill will:

  • Create a new quality assurance model by ending the regional accreditation “monopoly” and create an environment for new quality assurance entities to provide their expertise to postsecondary education programs.

  • Limit executive action by barring the USED from transferring student debt to hardworking Americans who never stepped foot on a college campus.

  • Remove barriers to completion by making it easier for students to transfer credits and ensuring that students can receive a credential for the learning they have completed.

  • Increase transparency by streamlining and enhancing data collection and reporting on college outcomes which will improve decision making and allow prospective students to assess their return on the cost of postsecondary education.

  • Double the Pell Grant for students enrolling in high-return programs during their junior and senior year as long as they are on-track to complete their program on-time.

  • Promote transparency by requiring colleges to offer degree programs at an up-front, guaranteed price in order to receive additional Pell Grant funds and performance-based funding.

  • Institute flexible loan limits that vary by fields of study that allow students to borrow up to the median cost of college and provide financial aid administrators flexibility to further reduce borrowing at their institution.

Announcing the legislation, Chairwoman Foxx said, “The College Cost Reduction Act is the vehicle through which much-needed accountability, transparency, and affordability measures can be both realized and implemented to the benefit of students and their families.” A fact sheet on the legislation is here and a bill summary is here.

House Subcommittee on Early Childhood, Elementary, and Secondary Education holds hearing on preparing students for success in the skills-based economy: On January 18, the House Education and the Workforce Subcommittee on Early Childhood, Elementary, and Secondary Education held a hearing titled, “Preparing Students for Success in the Skills-Based Economy.” The Subcommittee heard from four witnesses: Danny Corwin, Executive Director at Harbor Freight Tools for Schools; Kelly Mosley, Career and Technical Education Supervisor for the Clay County (FL) District Schools; Richard Kincaid, Senior Executive Director of College and Career Pathways at the Maryland State Department of Education; and Brandon Mabile, Strategic Development Manager at Performance Contractors. 

Subcommittee Chairman Aaron Bean (R-FL), in his opening statement, spoke about the importance of career and technical education (CTE), noting that, "As a country, we’ve consistently understated the value of this type of education. [We] began by removing shop class from school, and it’s been perpetuated by the baseless idea that everyone needs a college degree to be successful. We must do better to reverse the stigmas surrounding career and technical education because these stigmas are reflected in the growing skills gap. Doing so is the only way to reach the large pool of talented but dislocated American workers.” Chairman Bean also noted that “two-thirds of Americans do not possess a bachelor’s degree [and] one out of three students who start college never finish” and that “if we don’t recognize these realities and reflect them in the Committee’s priorities, employers will. In fact, industry is already out ahead changing the way we view education.” Committee Ranking Member Suzanne Bonamici (D-OR), in her opening remarks, also shared her support for CTE and noted that it “is an important part of a well-rounded education, but not a substitute for it.” Ranking Member Bonamici highlighted the 90% average graduation rate for students in CTE programs, compared to the 75% nationwide average graduation rate, noting that CTE “is essential for keeping kids in school.”

During witness testimony, Danny Corwin, Executive Director of Harbor Freight Tools for Schools, shared concerns that the “education system is not well aligned with labor market needs.” Corwin also highlighted the importance of “high school skilled trades education [which offer] students high-value opportunities, not just in the context of their trade – through technical skills and work experience – but also academically, socially and personally,” but noted that “high school trades courses face looming teacher shortages, exacerbated by retirements of an aging workforce.” Kelly Mosely, Career and Technical Education Supervisor at the Clay County District Schools in Florida, spoke about the pillars of her school district’s CTE programs, including, career exploration opportunities, industry certification, work based learning opportunities, and other partnerships with businesses. Richard Kincaid, Senior Executive Director of College and Career Pathways at the Maryland State Department of Education, spoke about the “Blueprint for Maryland’s Future, [which has been] a significant shift in the state's approach to education policy, governance, and accountability. Brandon Mabile, the Strategic Development Manager at Performance Contractors in Houston, TX highlighted the “severe workforce shortage that threatens our ability to thrive and build critical construction projects on time and on budget.” Mabile spoke about how his company is “working with high schools and school districts to provide students with important exposure to the rewarding careers available through the skilled trades.”

Members from both sides of the aisle, including Committee Chairwoman Virginia Foxx (R-NC), expressed interest in and support for CTE. A range of issues related to CTE raised at the hearing include the need to address the stigma surrounding CTE programs; the need to shift the focus from “college for all;” incentives for middle schools and high schools to create skilled trade programs; expanded access to CTE to underserved students; the importance of dual enrollment and continuous education programs; and how CTE programs can address learning loss related to the COVID-19 pandemic.

House Education and the Workforce Committee Chairwoman Foxx and House Ways and Means Chairman Smith take actions following testimony on the response to antisemitism on college campuses: On January 9, House Education and the Workforce Committee Chairwoman Virginia Foxx (R-NC) sent a letter to Harvard University Interim President Dr. Alan Garber and Harvard Corporation Senior Fellow Penny Pritzker requesting information regarding Harvard University’s response to antisemitism on its campus. Chairwoman Foxx references the December 5 testimony of Harvard University’s former President Dr. Claudine Gay before the Committee, writing that, “While Dr. Gay has since resigned, Harvard’s institutional failures regarding antisemitism extend well beyond one leader.” The letter requests information on all reports of antisemitic acts or incidents since January 1, 2021, as well as documents sufficient to show the findings and results of any disciplinary processes and/or changes in academic or personnel status, among other information. Similarly, House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Jason Smith (R-MO) sent a letter on January 10, to the leaders of Harvard University, the University of Pennsylvania, Cornell University, and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) questioning the institutions’ eligibility for tax-exempt status, citing their “failure to adequately protect Jewish students from discrimination and harassment.” The letter from Chairman Smith requests information on the institutions’ policies related to free speech and protection of Jewish students.

House Education and the Workforce Ranking Member Scott raises concerns over delays in FAFSA processing to the USED: On January 11, House Education and the Workforce Ranking Member Bobby Scott (D-VA) wrote a letter to USED Secretary Miguel Cardona expressing “serious concerns” regarding delays in implementing the simplified Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) for the 2024-2025 award year. Ranking Member Scott acknowledged that USED met its statutory requirement to launch the new FAFSA form before the January 1 deadline mandated in the FAFSA Simplification Act, but added concern that “the majority of FAFSA processing will continue to be delayed this year.” Ranking Member Scott continued, “The overarching goal of simplifying the FAFSA was to make the application process for federal student aid easier, fairer, and more effective for working families. While I recognize the tremendous undertaking of implementing the multitude of FAFSA changes, the announced delays will make accessing affordable higher education more challenging for students.” The letter concluded with a request for information regarding the Department’s plans to address the delays in FAFSA implementation and to provide support for students and families.

U.S. Courts:

Federal judges allow West Point and the Naval Academy to continue using race in admissions processes during current Students for Fair Admissions (SFFA) lawsuit: On, January 3, Judge Philip Halpern denied a request to temporarily bar West Point from using race in its admission process. SFFA filed a lawsuit against West Point in September, claiming that, “Instead of admitting future cadets based on objective metrics and leadership potential, West Point focuses on race.” In Judge Halpern’s opinion, he wrote that, “It is possible that Harvard’s equal protection conclusions with respect to the civilian universities apply to West Point. Contrariwise, the reasons given by Defendants may all be compelling governmental interests which are narrowly tailored: what was not compelling to the Supreme Court as regards civilian universities may in fact be compelling when raised in the context of West Point and national security interests.” Judge Halpern is referring to the SFFA v. Harvard/UNC opinion written by Chief Justice John Roberts, where a footnote stated, “The United States as amicus curiae contends that race-based admissions programs further compelling interests at our Nation’s military academies. No military academy is a party to these cases, however, and none of the courts below addressed the propriety of race-based admissions systems in that context. This opinion also does not address the issue, in light of the potentially distinct interests that military academies may present.” Previously, on December 14, a federal judge similarly denied a request to temporarily bar the Naval Academy from using race in its admissions process. According to reporting from Reuters, U.S. District Judge Richard Bennett denied SFFA a preliminary injunction against the Naval Academy because the group failed to prove that they would likely succeed in their case. SFFA first filed a lawsuit against the United States Naval Academy in October over its admissions practices, arguing that the Naval Academy has “no justification for using race-based admissions.”

 Upcoming Events (Congress & Administration):

  • On January 25 from 12:00 p.m. to 4:30 p.m., the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) will host the FTC Tech Summit. The Summit’s goal is to facilitate a dialogue amid a dynamic innovation landscape, particularly around the rise of large language models and generative artificial intelligence (AI). Speakers will focus on the state of technology and real-world impacts of AI on consumers and competition. The agenda includes remarks from FTC Chair Lina M. Khan, FTC Commissioner Rebecca Slaughter, and FTC Commissioner Alvaro Bedoya, as well as panels on AI & Data and Models, among others. The Summit is open to the public and registration is not required. More information is here.

  • From February 5 to 8, the USED will hold a negotiated rulemaking committee session on Institutional Quality and Program Integrity. The rulemaking committee will consider six topics: cash management, return of Title IV funds, accreditation, state authorization, distance education, and eligibility for TRIO programs. This is the second of three meetings of the committee; the final committee meeting will be held from March 4-7. Members of the public who wish to register to view the sessions or provide public testimony can find more information here.

Upcoming Events (Outside Organizations):

  • On January 25 at 3:00 p.m., the National Association of State Boards of Education (NASBE) will host a webinar titled, “Measuring Success in Public Charter School Alternative Education Campuses: What Can We Learn from Them?” The webinar will feature a discussion with alternative and public charter school experts, public charter authorizers, and public charter alternative education school practitioners about some bright spots for students that attend alternative school campuses that operate as public charter schools. Panelists will share lessons learned from public charter alternative education schools on creating flexible learning environments, including data on alternative school performance, ways to measure the success of schools designed to serve students on the margins, and how state policy can help ensure these schools can best serve these students while also navigating traditional accountability expectations. More information and registration are here.

  • On January 31 at 1:00 p.m., Results for America will host a virtual briefing titled, “The Power of Evidence to Drive America's Progress - Celebrating 5 Years of the Evidence Act.” The event will feature the release of a new report by Harvard University Assistant Professor Dr. Christina Ciocca Eller on federal evidence-based policymaking efforts. Speakers include the authors of the legislation -- Senate Appropriations Chairwoman Patty Murray (D-WA) and former U.S. House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) -- as well as Shalanda Young, Director of the White House Office of Management and Budget. Members of the new bipartisan Congressional What Works Caucus will also share how Congress can better integrate data and evidence into the legislative process. More information and registration are here.

Publications (Congress & Administration):

  • On January 17, House Education and the Workforce Committee Democrats, led by Ranking Member Bobby Scott (D-VA), released a new report titled, “On the Brink: The Case for Permanently and Fully Funding the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants & Children (WIC).” The report provides background about the WIC program, the services it provides to families, and the evidence of its impact. As Congress considers a federal funding package for FY2024, the report adds that “as many as two million young children and pregnant and postpartum adults could be turned away from WIC if additional funding is not provided to fully fund the program.” Citing a report from the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities, the report concludes, “Inadequate WIC funding would force states to put eligible new and expecting parents and young children on waiting lists for nutrition assistance, jeopardizing access to this highly effective program during an important window for child development.”

Publications (Outside Organizations):

  • On January 17, the National Center for Teacher Quality (NCTQ) published a new report titled, “State of the States: Five Policy Actions to Strengthen Implementation of the Science of Reading.” The report analyzed how states are working toward five policy actions to implement the science of reading, including setting specific, detailed reading standards for teacher preparation programs and providing professional learning for teachers to sustain implementation of the science of reading, among others. Authors conducted a state-by-state look at each of the actions and provided spotlights on states that are implementing certain actions effectively. The analysis found that 28 states have strong reading standards for teacher preparation programs, while only 13 have high-quality reading curricula. The report offers recommendations for states to continue advancing the five actions, as well as an accompanying State Reading Policy Action Guide to support such efforts.

  • On January 18, the Center for American Progress (CAP) published a new report titled, “Scaling-Up High-Dosage Tutoring Is Crucial to Students’ Academic Success.” The report references recent declines in academic tests -- especially in math -- and outlines the specific elements of high-dosage tutoring that are needed to support individual student progress. A number of policy recommendations are also made, including designating long-term funding for high-dosage tutoring, continuing to grow awareness and reach of the National Partnership for Student Success (NPSS), expanding the federal Work-Study program to include more high-dosage tutoring, and collecting more robust data on tutoring.

Legislation:

Introduced in the House of Representatives:

H.R. 6935

A bill to direct the Secretary of Labor, in consultation with the Chairperson of the National Endowment for the Arts, to award grants for arts and creative workforce programs.
Sponsor: Rep. Teresa Leger Fernandez (D-NM)

 

H.R. 6936

A bill to require Federal agencies to use the Artificial Intelligence Risk Management Framework developed by the National Institute of Standards and Technology with respect to the use of artificial intelligence.
Sponsor: Rep. Ted Lieu (D-CA)

 

H.R. 6951

A bill to lower the cost of postsecondary education for students and families.
Sponsor: Rep. Virginia Foxx (R-NC)

 

H.R. 7007

A bill to award grants to States to establish or improve, and carry out, Seal of Biliteracy programs to recognize high-level student proficiency in speaking, reading, and writing in both English and a second language, and early language programs.
Sponsor: Rep. Julia Brownley (D-CA)

 

H.R. 7016

A bill to establish a grant program for innovative partnerships among teacher preparation programs, local educational agencies, and community-based organizations to expand access to high-quality tutoring in hard-to-staff schools and high-need schools, and for other purposes.
Sponsor: Rep. Susie Lee (D-NV)

 

H.Res. 974

A resolution expressing support for the designation of the week of January 21 through January 27, 2024, as "National School Choice Week".
Sponsor: Rep. John Moolenaar (R-MI)

 

Introduced in the Senate:

S. 3572

A bill to direct the Secretary of Labor, in consultation with the Chairperson of the National Endowment for the Arts, to award grants for arts and creative workforce programs.
Sponsor: Sen. Ben Ray Lujan (D-NM)

 

S. 3580

A bill to require institutions of higher education participating in Federal student aid programs to share information about title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, including a link to the webpage of the Office for Civil Rights where an individual can submit a complaint regarding discrimination in violation of such title, and for other purposes.
Sponsor: Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-LA)

 

S. 3595

A bill to award grants to States to establish or improve, and carry out, Seal of Biliteracy programs to recognize high-level student proficiency in speaking, reading, and writing in both English and a second language, and early language programs.
Sponsor: Sen. Brian Schatz (D-HI)

 

S.Res. 529

A resolution recognizing January 2024 as "National Mentoring Month".
Sponsor: Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI)