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Posts Tagged ‘Higher Education Act’

Legislative Update: Congress Finalizes Funding Proposals for Perkins as the Obama Administration Makes CTE Scholars Announcement and Adjusts Higher Ed Agenda

Monday, June 29th, 2015

CapitolFor the Labor, Health and Human Services and Education (Labor-HHS-ED) communities, last week was busy to say the least. Congressional appropriators in both the House and the Senate marked up and ultimately approved two separate appropriations bills for the Labor-HHS-ED portion of the Fiscal Year (FY) 2016 federal budget—an accomplishment not seen in several years despite intense partisan disagreement over the funding levels constraining each proposal. The U.S. Department of Education (ED) and the Carl D. Perkins Act (Perkins) both derive funding from these funding bills which would need to be reconciled and ultimately signed into law by the President before becoming law. However, both bills propose to stay within the Budget Control Act’s (BCA) sequester caps— self-imposed overall limits on how much Congress can spend on the programs falling under this and other portions of the budget.

These sequester caps have been at the center of much partisan disagreement since 2013 when they were first triggered. Democrats would like to see these caps raised in order to make much needed investments in education and related programs while Republicans largely want to stay within the caps or offset additional investments with related cuts elsewhere in the federal budget. Without changes to the underlying BCA legislation— something that the 2014 Ryan-Murray budget agreement achieved for FY’s 2014 and 2015— funding levels for the majority of programs will stagnate and be at risk of further cuts for FY 2016 and many years to come.

In light of this, the House Appropriations Committee approved their FY 2016 Labor-HHS-ED bill on a vote of 30-21. As we shared earlier, the bill would reduce ED’s discretionary budget by $2.8 billion dollars—a cut that would bring the Department’s overall discretionary budget back to FY 2004 funding levels. Final approval of this bill also gave further clarity to what lawmakers intend for the Perkins Act. While Perkins basic state grants would remain level-funded at the same amounts the program received in FY 2015, the bill would reduce Perkins’ national activities funding by $3.6 million dollars. The bill also contains a number of policy riders (both education related and otherwise) such as prohibiting ED from enforcing its recently upheld “gainful employment” regulations and its proposed college ratings system, a move that when taken together with the bill’s overall proposed funding levels virtually guarantees that the proposal will not be signed by the President.

In the Senate, the Appropriations committee moved quickly throughout the week to get a Labor-HHS-ED bill through subcommittee and to a final vote by its full membership. Approving the bill on a 16-14 vote along party lines, the Senate Appropriations Committee’s bill would cut ED’s discretionary budget by $1.36 billion. Like the House, the Senate would cut Perkins national activities by $3 million and level-fund Perkins state grants at $1.117 billion—the same amounts the program has received in FY 2014 and 2015. While these figures reflect a nearly 96 percent restoration of the FY 2013 sequester cuts imposed on Perkins, the program on the whole remains well below what it received in FY 2010 and approximately $5.4 million below pre-sequester levels.

Despite the gloomy outlook for most of the education community, the central issue in the ongoing funding debate in Congress centers on the BCA sequester caps. As lawmakers struggle to meet the needs of students and families across the country, more will need to be done to raise or eliminate these caps. Until that happens, federal investments in education, and in particular CTE, will continue to stagnate until Congress decides to act. With Congress poised to pass the necessary 12 spending bills needed to fund the government before the August recess, and with Congressional Democrats and the President making clear that they will not support the funding levels contained in these proposals, it remains unclear how this appropriations fight will play out as the end of FY 2015 on September 30th looms ever closer.

Be sure to check back here for more updates on the Congressional appropriations process and what that means for the wider CTE community.

Obama Administration Changes Direction with College Ratings Framework

Late last week the Obama Administration announced a major revision to their proposed accountability-based college ratings system originally due for release later this summer. When first announced, ED solicited public comments on the proposal and NASDCTEc, along with the Association of Career and Technical Education (ACTE), provided feedback on the feasibility of the initiative. Many stakeholder groups within the higher education community shared substantial concerns regarding the viability of the effort and questioned the appropriate role and responsibilities Ed should have in ensuring access to and affordability of postsecondary education.

In light of these comments Jamienne Studley, ED’s Deputy Under Secretary and Acting Assistant Secretary for Postsecondary Education, announced that the Department’s original proposal—which would have “rated” postsecondary institutions into three wide-ranging categories of low, medium, and high performing and tied federal financial aid decisions to that determination— would now be revised to be a public-facing consumer information tool, providing prospective students and their families with a information regarding postsecondary institutions in order for them to make more informed decisions when making choices about their postsecondary education.

This proposal has been a source of much partisan discomfort in Congress, particularly in the House where the most recent Labor-HHS-ED appropriations bill included additional provisions that would have prevented the Administration from implementing the system. Read the House Education and Workforce Committee’s response to the announcement here.

ED plans to have the newly reimagined system available for public use by the end of the summer. Learn more about the effort here.

This announcement comes on the heels of another major development for the Administration’s higher education agenda. Last Tuesday, the U.S. District Court of D.C. ruled that ED’s “gainful employment” regulations can be implemented as scheduled on July 1st, 2015 after several lawsuits from for-profit and private institution trade groups challenged the premise of the new rules. The regulations will require career education programs to meet specific debt-to-income ratios for graduates based on their annual and discretionary income following program exit.

This is ED’s second attempt at implementing these regulations and this latest ruling paves the way for the rules ultimate adoption later this week. Read Secretary of Education Arne Duncan’s formal response applauding the court’s ruling here.

President Obama Expands Presidential Scholars Program

As we shared last week, President Obama signed Executive Order 11155—a decree that will expand the existing Presidential Scholars program to include up to 20 CTE students each year moving forward. While the details of the CTE component to the program are still being determined, beginning in the 2015-16 school year, the Chief State School Officers will nominate CTE scholars who will then be selected by the Commission on Presidential Scholars. Tomorrow, the White House will play host to another CTE-related event where additional details regarding the announcement are expected. Learn more about this exciting development here.

Odds & Ends

Steve Voytek, Government Relations Manager

By Steve Voytek in Legislation, News, Public Policy
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Midterm Elections Place Republicans in Control of Congress, Gainful Employment Regulations Finalized

Thursday, November 6th, 2014

CapitolThe long anticipated 2014 midterm elections took place on Tuesday, ushering in a wave of new Republicans into both chambers of Congress. The central question ahead of these elections rested on the balance of power in the Senate and with it full Republican control of the entire Congress. Late Tuesday night, that question was finally put to rest. As of this post, the GOP has picked up seven new seats in the Senate, with three races still in contention. In the House the results were much the same, with the Republicans swelling their majority in that Chamber to at least 243 and possibly 250— a high water mark for the Republican Party not seen since 1928.

Although a few races are still in contention, the Republican Party looks poised to add additional seats in both Chambers over the next several weeks, as the elections results continue to trickle in. Democrats who have served in both the House and the Senate on the Chambers’ respective education and appropriations committees have lost their seats which, along with the influx of new Republican lawmakers to the Capitol, will significantly change the composition of the Committees that oversee and ultimately fund the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act (Perkins) along with other key education and workforce programs.

Senators Kay Hagan (D-NC) and Mark Pryor (D-AR) along with Representative Tim Bishop (D-NY), who have served on education and appropriations committees in both Chambers have all lost reelection. Two others including Senators Beigich (D-AK) and Landrieu (D-LA), are in races whose final outcome have yet to be determined.

So what does this all mean for the Career Technical Education community? First and foremost, the key Committees in both Chambers which will oversee the reauthorization of the Perkins Act— the Senate’s Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee and the House’s Education and the Workforce (HEW) Committee— will look dramatically different in the 114th Congress which is set to convene formally on January 3rd, 2015.

Current Ranking Member of the Senate’s HELP Committee, Lamar Alexander (R-TN), will likely become Chairman of this influential committee, where he is expected to prioritize the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) and the Higher Education Act (HEA) in the committee’s legislative queue. Additionally, the retirement of Chairman Tom Harkin (D-IA) has positioned Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) to likely take the Ranking Member position on the HELP Committee next January. Both Senators Alexander and Murray were among the main architects behind recent reauthorization of the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act— evidence that the two could also work in bipartisan fashion on other education and workforce issues.

In the House current HEW Chairman, John Kline (R-MN), is expected to retain his position pending Republican leadership approval of a request for a term-limit  extension to stay on as Chair (current House rules cap panel leadership at three terms). For the Democrats, Representative Bobby Scott (D-VA) is anticipated to fill the vacancy left by the retirement of current HEW Ranking Member George Miller (D-CA).

With the Republican Party set to take the reins of Congressional power early next year, the question now shifts to what education and workforce legislation— possibly including the Perkins Act— will be prioritized in a new Congress. Nevertheless, the current “lame duck” Congress still has much to accomplish beginning next week when both Chambers are set to reconvene.

As we have previously shared, Congress passed a Continuing Appropriations Resolution (CR) which extended Fiscal Year (FY) 2014 spending levels into the current FY 2015. This stopgap funding measure is set to expire on December 11th of this year and Congress must act to fund the federal government past that date. NASDCTEc and the Association for Career and Technical Education (ACTE) have called on Congress to pass a comprehensive omnibus spending bill to replace the current CR and restore funding to the Perkins basic state grant program. Senate Democrats recently circulated a similar request last month.

As all of this and more unfolds over the coming weeks and months, check back here for more information and updates.

Gainful Employment Regulations Finalized and Released

Last Friday, the Obama Administration’s Department of Education (ED) released the final version of its widely anticipated “gainful employment” regulations which impact postsecondary institutions offering career education programs. These newly finalized rules, set to go into effect July 1st, 2015, regulate institutional eligibility to access Title IV federal student aid under the Higher Education Act (HEA). Current law requires that most for-profit programs and certificate programs at non-profit and public institutions prepare students for “gainful employment in a recognized occupation” to access Title IV student aid money. However, current statute does not fully define the term “gainful employment” and these regulations have sought to do just that.

As we have previously shared, these regulations are the result of nearly five years of off-and-on negotiated rulemaking sessions between a broad swath of the higher education community and ED. A previous attempt by the Department to implement new gainful employment regulations was struck down by a federal district court in 2012 which ruled that the rules were arbitrarily constructed and applied, but upheld ED’s authority to make a new, more fully justified set in the future. Last Friday, after months of negotiated rulemaking sessions failed to reach consensus agreement, ED released the final version of these regulations for public consumption.

Under the proposed regulations gainful employment will be measured using three criteria which ED hopes will identify and weed out the lowest-performing programs among the institutions and programs these regulations apply to. Almost all programs at for-profit postsecondary institutions, as well as non-degree programs at public and private nonprofit institutions, including some community colleges and area career technical education centers, will be subject to these new regulations which include:

The Department’s factsheet which lays out these metrics in a bit more detail, can be found here.

Significantly, ED did not include a program cohort default rate (pCDR) as a third accountability metric— a measure which was included in the Department’s initial proposal this past spring. Many community colleges and sub-associate degree institutions argued that a pCDR metric would unfairly penalize their programs whose students largely do not receive any federal student aid.

While these regulations are set to go into effect July 1st, 2015, a transition period for institutions to meet the more stringent debt-to-earnings metrics will be established over the next seven years to allow programs to make the necessary changes to meet these new requirements. A press release from ED, containing more information can be found here and the final regulations can be found here.

Steve Voytek, Government Relations Manager 

By Steve Voytek in News, Public Policy
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Spring Meeting Recap: Beyond Perkins

Monday, April 7th, 2014

Our final panel discussion on the morning of Tuesday April 1, 2014, was on other major federal policies and initiatives that impact – or have the potential to impact – Career Technical Education (CTE). David Blaime, Senior Vice President at the American Association of Community Colleges, opened the panel by discussing some of the major provisions he believes will be addressed in future reauthorization of the Higher Education Act, which won’t likely occur before 2015. He identified three themes emerging from the current discussions: reducing complexity in student lending (in terms of regulation and the number of programs), accountability tied to the quality of postsecondary institutions, and a potential shift to outcome-based accreditation, as well as how the U.S. Department of Education oversees accrediting bodies.

Angela Hanks, Policy Analyst from the New Skills Coalition next gave an update on the current state of the Workforce Investment Act (WIA), which has been due up for reauthorization since 2001. In the last year, the House and the Senate Health, Education Labor and Pensions Committee each passed an updated WIA bill. While these two bills were developed and passed largely along party lines, last week the leadership from both the House and Senate met in conference to discuss opportunities for a new WIA. NASDCTEc will keep everyone informed as details emerge from those discussions.

Finally, Dr. Johan Uvin, U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary in the Office of Career, Technical and Adult Education at the U.S. Department of Education, shared some of the Administration’s major initiatives to support CTE and workforce development aligned to President Obama’s goal of ensuring every American has at least one year of postsecondary education or training. Specifically, he mentioned the $100 million in Youth Career Connect grants and the Performance Partnership pilots, which will allow a state, region, locality, or Federally-recognized tribe to pool a portion of discretionary funds they receive from multiple federal agencies while measuring and tracking specific cross-program outcomes, to facilitate better coordination and reduce redundancies. He also highlighted a number of new items put in the 2015 budget including $150 million for competitive high school redesign grants, $110 million for STEM innovation networks and $75 million for accelerated pathways.

Kate Blosveren, Associate Executive Director

By Kate Blosveren in NASDCTEc Spring Meeting
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Legislative Update: Senate Education Committee Passes WIA Reauthorization Bill

Friday, August 2nd, 2013

CapitolCongress Reaches Agreement on Student Loan Interest Rates

This week, the U.S. House of Representatives approved a bill to link interest rates on student loans to economic factors; if the economy improves, interest rates would rise. The bill, an amendment to the Higher Education Act (HEA), has already been approved by the U.S. Senate and will likely soon be signed into law by President Obama.

Once enacted, the new law would impact postsecondary students and their families starting this fall with interest rates of:

The White House notes that the new loan rates would immediately impact 11 million borrowers and reduce average undergraduate interest costs by $1,500.

Though the amendment successfully passed the House and the Senate, the topic of student loan interest rates is likely to emerge again as the reauthorization of HEA begins to take shape this fall.

Reauthorization of the Higher Education Act

The House Education and the Workforce Committee asked education stakeholders to submit their views on policies that should be included in the upcoming reauthorization of HEA. NASDCTEc has worked with members in the higher education community to identify our broad priorities for HEA, which include improving data alignment between key pieces of legislation, reducing barriers to financial aid for traditional and non-traditional postsecondary students (including reinstating the Ability to Benefit option), and ensuring access to Title II funds for Career Technical Education (CTE) teacher preparation and professional development.

The Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) also expects to announce a call for public input on HEA reauthorization soon.

Reauthorization of the Workforce Investment Act

After a brief markup of the Workforce Investment Act of 2013 (WIA), or S. 1356, the Senate HELP Committee approved the bill by a vote of 18-3. An amendment to increase the accountability of Job Corps programs was included. The bill will next be considered by the full Senate.

NASDCTEc is pleased that Congress is moving forward with the reauthorization of WIA and has taken into consideration several areas that are important for CTE, including promoting programs that result in industry-recognized postsecondary credentials and align with the needs of local economies.

However, the bill passed by the HELP Committee included an area of major concern– a funding infrastructure mechanism for One-Stop programs under WIA – that would negatively impact CTE by siphoning funding from the Carl D. Perkins Career Technical Education Act (Perkins). Read more about this issue and our concerns in this blog.

As the bill moves to the full Senate, please encourage your networks to contact your Senators. Ask them not to use Perkins funds for WIA infrastructure, and urge them to maintain current law.

FY 2014 Updates

At the end of this week, Congress leaves for summer recess without having reached agreement on FY 2014 spending bills, total spending levels, or what to do about sequestration. When they return to Capitol Hill in five weeks, members will have just three weeks to reach an agreement on these issues to avoid a possible government shut down on October 1, 2013.

On a conference call this week held by the Senate Democratic Steering and Outreach Committee, Chairman Mark Begich (D-AK) and Senator Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) spoke of the damage caused by sequestration and its negative impact on the economy and the middle class. The Senators encouraged listeners to use the Congressional recess wisely by contacting Congress members to specifically describe how sequestration is hurting constituents in their state or district. NASDCTEc urges you to contact your Congress members and tell them how sequestration is damaging CTE programs and your local economy.

Kara Herbertson, Research and Policy Manager

By Kara in Legislation, News, Public Policy
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