A negotiated rulemaking panel, composed of fifteen members appointed by the Department of Education (ED), convened on Wednesday to develop a set of proposed rules impacting postsecondary student aid. Negotiators have been tasked with developing new regulations regarding state authorization of distance learning programs, Parent PLUS loans, campus debit cards and clock to credit hour conversion. The fifteen member panel is set to meet again in March and later in April to come to a consensus on these proposed regulations, some of which were part of EDâ€™s earlier â€œprogram integrityâ€ rules. As with similar rounds of negotiated rulemaking, the panel is required to come to a consensus on each item on the agenda. Per the Departmentâ€™s organizational protocols, without a consensus ED has the authority to unilaterally draft these regulations on their own.
Of particular interest to the Career Technical Education (CTE) community are proposed rules impacting clock to credit hour conversions. Currently, students qualify for federal financial aid based on the amount of credit hours attempted. However, many postsecondary CTE programs measure student progress in actual hours rather than by credit hour. Programs that do this must retroactively convert â€œclock timeâ€ to credit hour units for the purposes of student financial aid. At present ED, for the purposes of financial aid eligibility, defines a credit hour as at least one hour per week in lecture and two hours of additional work outside the classroom. This interpretation has put students enrolled in CTE programs– for instance those that award licenses or certifications based on real-time hours–Â at a disadvantage when applying for federal financial aid. Opponents of this regulation argue that the conversion places less significance on real-time hours and more on credit hour units. Over the next several months the panel will be considering a number of changes to the rules governing this conversion.
NASDCTEc will continue to monitor these negotiations as the panel grapples with these issues. More information can be found here.
Dept. of Labor Announces â€œReady to Work Partnershipâ€ Grants
Earlier this week, the Department of Labor (DOL) released a solicitation for grant applications (SGA) for â€œReady to Work Partnershipâ€ grants to help the long-term unemployed. The $150 million grant program was announced shortly after President Obamaâ€™s State of the Union Address and is designed to bring to scale sector partnerships between community colleges, employers, workforce boards, and other relevant stakeholders that provide skills training and other workforce development services. The Department expects to award 20 to 30 individual grants ranging from $3 to $10 million for programs which focus on employer engagement, job placement assistance, and provide work-based training opportunities.
In order to qualify, a program must actively partner with three employers or an industry association with at least three business community members. Applications for the grant program will be accepted until June 19th, 2014. More information on DOLâ€™s â€œReady to Work Partnershipâ€ grants can be found here.
House GOP Make CTE a 2014 Priority
Last month House Republicans met in Cambridge, Maryland to plan an ambitious economic and domestic agenda for the coming year. Their plan, titled â€œAn America That Works: Rebuilding the American Dream,â€ contrasts greatly with the Obama Administrationâ€™s current economic proposals and seeks to provide a number of alternative policies of its own. Among the many issues touted by the House Republican Conference was a renewed focus on Career Technical Education (CTE). House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) emphasized that his partyâ€™s plan will, â€œfocus on work-force-training and vocational-education programsâ€ that empower Americans to obtain â€œa secure job with a decent salary that enables them to support their families, pursue their dreams, and leave their children a little more than they have.â€
In an effort to demonstrate that commitment, the Majority Leader visited Germanna Community College today to highlight the importance of the workforce and CTE programs offered at an institution in his home district. NASDCTEc and its partners are encouraged by these remarks and the recent interest in CTE. As both parties continue to articulate their 2014 policy agendas, it is critical that CTE continues to be a central component to these proposals to ensure students of all ages are prepared to succeed in the 21st century economy.
Steve Voytek, Government Relations Associate