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Washington News Brief


By Sharon H. Bob, Ph.D., Higher Education Specialist, Powers Pyles Sutter and Verville, PC

Department’s senior official rejects recommended accreditation ban for HLC

On Oct. 26, 2020, Mitchell M. Zias, Senior Department Official and Deputy Secretary of Education, sent a letter to the Higher Learning Commission (HLC) advising HLC that his decision was to reject the Department’s staff recommendation to sanction the accreditor as to how it handled the oversight of the Art Institute of Colorado and Illinois Institute of Art (“Institutes”). The Department’s staff review of HLC resulted in a final staff analysis that determined HLC was non-compliant with HLC’s own policy and recommended that HLC’s scope of recognition be limited. The limitation stated that HLC “may not accredit additional institutions of higher education that do not currently hold accreditation or pre-accreditation status with the agency for the duration of the 12-month period pending a compliance determination by the Senior Department Official.”

The National Advisory Committee on Institutional Quality and Integrity (NACIQI) voted on July 29, 2020, to reject sanctions recommended by the Department’s staff by a vote of 9-1 and one abstention. At issue is how HLC handled the accreditation of two Institutes that were transferred from Education Management Corp., a for-profit entity, to the nonprofit Dream Center in late 2017 and early 2018. During its review, HLC determined that the two Institutes did not meet certain eligibility criteria. While approving the transaction, HLC transferred the Institutes to candidacy status, interrupting their Title IV eligibility. The Department’s staff argued that the Institutes were not fully informed of the consequences of the change to candidacy status.

While Dr. Zias agreed in part with the staff analysis and recommendation, he did not agree with the limitation placed on HLC. While Dr. Zias’ rejected the recommended sanction on HLC, he remained concerned about the way HLC executed its past decision. Therefore, Dr. Zias is requiring HLC to submit periodic monitoring reports to him over the next 12-month period from the date of the decision.

A copy of the letter is found at: https://assets.documentcloud.org/documents/20399991/hlc-decision-letter-october-2020-1.pdf

Senate Democrats send request to Secretary of Education requesting to provide defense to repayment relief to students entitled to loan discharges

On Oct. 28, 2020, five Senate Democrats, Dick Durbin (D-IL), Patty Murray (D-WA), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), and Sherrod Brown (D-OH), sent a letter to Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos urging her to provide borrower defense to repayment relief to students who attended one of 10 institutions listed by name in the letter. The letter said that despite the fact that the Department took action against the institutions, the Department has not provided relief to students who are entitled to loan discharges under the borrower defense to repayment provision of the Higher Education Act.

A copy of the Senate Democrats’ letter is found at: https://www.brown.senate.gov/imo/media/doc/Senate%20letter%20to%20DeVos%2010.28.20.pdf

Former Vice President Biden elected President

President-elect Biden is moving his attention to the process of assembling the Biden administration. Press reports indicate that teachers’ unions are providing significant input on who President-elect Biden should select as the next Secretary of Education especially since he made a campaign promise to select a Secretary who has been a public school teacher. Two teachers’ union leaders are seen as top contenders: President of the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) Randi Weingarten and former President of the National Education Association (NEA) President Lily Eskelsen Garcia.

With regard to higher education policy, President-elect Biden is expected to promote several higher education and student loan proposals:

  • Provide $750 billion for funds to be sent to states to make community colleges free for all students and eliminate tuition at four-year public institutions for families earning less than $125,000;
  • Provide $70 billion to cover tuition for some students who enroll in Historically Black Colleges and Universities and other Minority-Serving Institutions;
  • Double the maximum value of Pell Grants, which is now $6,345;
  • Cancel $10,000 in student loan debt for each borrower, as a pandemic relief measure;
  • Reinstate gainful employment and borrower defense to repayment rules; and
  • Require for-profit institutions to “prove their value” to the Department of Education before they receive federal financial aid.

Immediately, the Biden administration will have to address the upcoming expiration of COVID-19 pandemic relief, including the suspension of payments and interest, for about 40 million federal student loan borrowers. Barring any federal action in the coming weeks, the benefits will end on Dec. 31, 2020, making tens of millions of loan payments come due in the next year.

Agency review teams have been established for understanding the operations of each agency to ensure a smooth transfer of power from day one. The transition teams for each agency, including the Department of Education, are provided at: https://buildbackbetter.com/the-transition/agency-review-teams/?utm_source=CER+Daily+News&utm_campaign=e038c4a5b0-EMAIL_CAMPAIGN_2018_07_31_05_42_COPY_01&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_936a52d124-e038c4a5b0-

ACE, NASFAA, and TICAS send letter to Secretary urging her to extend CARES Act provisions to September 2021

On Nov. 2, 2020, the American Council on Education (ACE), the National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators (NASFAA), and The Institute for College Access and Success (TICAS) sent a letter to Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos urging her to extend the student loan relief provisions included in the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act) until Sept. 30, 2021, or until the unemployment rate has fallen below 8% for three consecutive months. The letter said that Dec. 31, 2020 deadline is rapidly approaching, and there is an urgent need to extend the deadline. The groups also urged the Secretary to delay the income-driven repayment recertification date to Sept. 30, 2021, or until the unemployment rate has fallen below 8% for three consecutive months.

A copy of the letter to the Secretary is found at: https://www.nasfaa.org/uploads/documents/NASFAA_TICAS_ACE_November_Letter_DeVos.pdf

ED calls for comments on ACICS

On Nov. 5, 2020, the Department of Education published a Notice in the Federal Register calling for public comments regarding the Accrediting Council for Independent Colleges and Schools (ACICS). ACICS submitted a monitoring report on issues identified by the Department with regard to the Secretary’s criteria for recognition of an accrediting agency. In its review of the monitoring report, the Department staff noted that there were one or more deficiencies that may exist in the agency’s compliance with the criteria. The Department also identified noncompliance with the criteria resulting from a review based on information from media coverage of ACICS’ presentation to the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA) concerning its financial situation and its review of two institutions, Virginia International University and San Diego University for Integrative Studies. Finally, based on media coverage alleging that ACICS accredited Reagan National University, an institution not actually in operation, the Department initiated a review, which identified noncompliance with the criteria.

The National Advisory Committee on Institutional Quality and Integrity (NACIQI) will review ACICS during its upcoming meeting in February 2021.

A copy of the Notice is found at: https://www.govinfo.gov/content/pkg/FR-2020-11-05/pdf/2020-24595.pdf

Senate Committee on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education and Related Agencies Appropriations Legislation and Explanatory Language Released

On Nov. 10, 2020, the Senate Appropriations Committee on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education and Related Agencies released its FY 2021 appropriations bill. The bill serves as the Senate’s opening offer in talks to avoid a government shutdown. Congress passed a Continuing Resolution to keep the federal government open until Dec. 11, 2020. The initial offer would add $150 for the maximum Pell Grant bringing it to $6,495.

An Explanatory Statement included some of the following statements:

  • Ability to Benefit: The statement reiterates the directive in the FY 2020 explanatory statement to direct ED to issue guidance that serves as a simple and clear resource for implementing Ability to Benefit at institutions of higher education;
  • FAFSA: The statement encourages ED to provide support for students, who, due to substance abuse disorders, are unable to include parental information in the FAFSA;
  • FAFSA Simplification: The statement supports efforts to simplify the FAFSA; and
  • Return of Title IV funds: The statement strongly encourages ED to pursue efforts to simplify and streamline the Return of Title IV funds process.

FTC sends warning letter to Frank Financial Aid against providing misleading information

On Nov. 10, 2020, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) sent a warning letter to TAPD, Inc. dba Frank Financial Aid (Frank) notifying them that they may be unlawfully misleading consumers regarding temporary relief for postsecondary students in violation of the FTC rules. Frank is a company that markets financial aid preparation assistance to postsecondary students. FTC found that Frank has made potentially misleading claims about the CARES Act emergency grants. The FTC letter also warns Frank about offers of cash advanced with terms such as a student can pay it back “when your financial aid comes in” and with “no interest, no fees – ever.” However, the company’s terms that appears in small print, appear to require the advance of cash made by Frank to be paid back within 61 days. The FTC letter warns Frank to take prompt action to ensure all deceptive or unlawful claims are removed or corrected, and to provide specific actions that it has taken to address the issues no later than Nov. 17, 2020.

A copy of the FTC letter is found at: https://www.ftc.gov/system/files/warning-letters/covid-19-letter_to_frank.pdf?utm_source=govdelivery

ED releases the College Financing Plan (formerly the Financial Aid Shopping Sheet)

On Nov. 12, 2020, the Department of Education released the College Financing Plan (formerly called the Financial Aid Shopping Sheet). The electronic announcement urged institutions to voluntarily commit to using it to supply financial information to students in a way that could be understood and compared easily. In addition to the template for an undergraduate form, for 2021-2022, ED created an additional template for graduate and professional school students.

A copy of the electronic announcement, which includes the HTML specifications file, technical guide, and a set of Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ), is found at: https://ifap.ed.gov/electronic-announcements/111220CollegeFinancingPlan2122AY

ED announces additional updates to StudentAid.gov

On Nov. 16, 2020, the Department of Education announced updates to the features of StudentAid.gov, which is designed to improve the information and self-service tools available to its customers. New features include:

  • Borrower Defense to Repayment Application: This feature provides an online, “smart” form to assist borrowers in completing and submitting a borrower defense to repayment application. [NOTE: The Borrower Defense to Repayment Application has been pulled from the website. OMB claims that the application has not been approved yet.]
  • Additional Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) Help Tool: This feature helps borrowers more easily determine their eligibility for the PSLF Program.
  • Loan Simulator Module: This enhancement adds a “Borrow More” module that allows borrowers to determine how taking out additional federal student loans will affect their monthly payment amount.

A copy of the electronic announcement is found at: https://ifap.ed.gov/electronic-announcements/111620NextGenFSAStudentAiddotgovWebsiteEnhanceNov2020

CECU names former Congressman as new president

On Nov. 17, 2020, Career Education Colleges and Universities (CECU) recently named Jason Altmire, a centralist Democrat, who previously served on the House Education and Labor Committee from 2007 to 2013, as its new President and CEO. He represented an area outside of Pittsburgh. He takes over CECU following the election of Joe Biden who pledged to restore regulations from the Obama-era that primarily affect for-profit institutions. Mr. Altmire said: “I believe in the mission of the sector – to serve students and to help them acquire the skills necessary to compete in an ever-changing workforce. I look forward to working with the new administration and Congress to ensure that the success of this sector is measured by the same accountability metrics as all others in higher education.”

Mr. Altmire succeeds Steve Gunderson who has led CECU since 2012. The planned transition was initiated by Gunderson in May 2019, when he advised the CECU Board that the association should begin preparing for a transition after the 2020 national elections.

WASC approves University of Arizona’s acquisition of Ashford University

On Nov. 17, 2020, the University of Arizona announced in a press release that its acquisition of Ashford University from Zovio Inc. was approved by Arizona’s accreditor, the Western Association of Schools and Colleges Senior College and University Commission (WASC).

Ashford, a for-profit online university with 35,000 students, will become the University of Arizona Global Campus under the agreement. The Global Campus will be a nonprofit corporation operating in affiliation with the University of Arizona, but it will remain an independent institution.

A copy of the press release from the University of Arizona is found at: https://news.arizona.edu/story/university-arizona-global-campus-approved-accreditor-board-appointed

House Democrats and Republicans reelect leaders for the 117th Congress

On Nov. 18, 2020, House Democrats selected Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) to serve another term as Speaker of the House. Also selected were Steny Hoyer (D-MD) to serve as House Majority Leader and Congressman James Clyburn (D-SC) to serve as the House Majority Whip. The election of the three leaders, who have ruled the Democratic caucus for the last 14 years, has not been without grumbling, particularly after the losses in the election, which shrunk the majority.

On Nov. 17, 2020, House Republicans selected Congressman Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) to serve another term as the House Minority Leader. Congressman Steve Scalise (R-LA) was selected to serve as the House Minority Whip and Congresswoman Lynn Cheney (R-WY) as the Chairwoman of the House Republican Conference.

ACE and 45 other higher education associations send summary of the priorities for the higher education community

On Nov. 18, 2020, the American Council on Education (ACE) and 45 other higher education associations sent a letter to the Biden administration’s transition team with the priorities for the higher education community. Specifically, the higher education associations would like to:

  • Work with all stakeholders to address aspects of the Title IX regulations that are deeply problematic.
  • Withdraw the June 2020 interim final rule regarding the Eligibility of Students at Institutions of Higher Education for Funds Under the CARES Act, which they believe contradicts congressional intent as to which students should be eligible for the Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund (HEERF) funds.
  • Pursue integrity in the student aid programs by engaging in new negotiated rulemaking processes on Borrower Defense to Repayment and Gainful Employment rules.
  • Reinstate the Obama-era guidance on the use of race in admissions.
  • Withdraw the proposed rules that would limit international student’s “duration of status” and create a fixed duration of admission.
  • Withdraw the interim final rules and the proposed rule that make it harder and more expensive for individuals to receive H-1B visas.

A copy of the ACE letter is found at: https://www.acenet.edu/Documents/Letter-Biden-Administration-Regulatory-Actions-111820.pdf

FTC announces settlement with third-party debt relief company

On Nov. 19, 2020, student loan debt relief scammer Brandon Frere and his companies, including Ameritech Financial, have entered into an agreement with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to settle charges they misled about 40,000 consumers about lowering their student loan debt. According to the original complaint filed in 2018, Mr. Frere’s companies sent personalized mail to consumers that falsely claimed that they were eligible for federal programs that would permanently reduce their monthly debt payments to a fixed low amount or result in total loan forgiveness. The FTC alleged that Mr. Frere and his companies charged up to $800 in illegal up-front fees to enroll consumers in a federal loan assistance program and charged consumers $100 to $1,200 in advance fees for enrollment in a “financial education” program, followed by ongoing $49-$99 monthly membership fees for the life of the loan, which typically is 10-25 years. The FTC’s order bans Mr. Frere and his companies from providing debt relief services and prohibits them from violating the Telemarketing Sales Rule.

A copy of the FTC press release is found at: https://www.ftc.gov/news-events/press-releases/2020/11/student-loan-debt-relief-scammer-brandon-frere-agrees-settle-ftc?utm_source=govdelivery

ED releases compilation of HEERF FAQs

On Nov. 20, 2020, the Department of Education reissued the Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund (HEERF) Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) Rollup Document. The Rollup Document is a compilation of all of the previous FAQs and updates the response to Question #49 regarding payments of HEERF funds to higher-level officer roles, such as a Chief Fiscal Officer.

The following five FAQ documents are included in this Rollup Document:

  • CARES Act HEERF Round 3 FAQs (Oct. 2, 2020)
  • CARES Act HEERF Supplemental FAQs (Issued June 30, 2020, and Revised Sept. 8, 2020)
  • CARES Act HEERF Student FAQs (May 15, 2020)
  • CARES Act HEERF Emergency Financial Aid Grants to Students under Section 18004(a)(1) and 18004(c) (April 9, 2020) (“Student Portion FAQs”)
  • CARES Act HEERF Institutional Portion under Section 18004(a)(1) and 18004(c) FAQs (April 9, 2020) (“Institutional Portion FAQs”)

The FAQs in the Rollup Document are taken from the previously issued documents and are categorized and compiled into this one Rollup Document for everyone’s convenience.

A copy of the FAQs is found at: https://www2.ed.gov/about/offices/list/ope/heerffaqsoct2020rollup.pdf?utm_source=CER+Daily+News&utm_campaign=6e502d2cd3-EMAIL_CAMPAIGN_2018_07_31_05_42_COPY_01&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_936a52d124-6e502d2cd3-

ED unveils a new tool that shows how states and institutions are utilizing funds provided under the CARES Act

On Nov. 20, 2020, Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos announced a new online portal that clearly shows if states, local educational agencies (LEAs), and institutions of higher education (IHEs) are using the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act’s $31 billion Education Stabilization Fund (ESF) meant to allow students to keep learning during the pandemic.

The portal captures awards and expenditures reported as of Sept. 30, 2020, six months after enactment of the CARES Act. The interactive data map and other informational tools can be found at covid-relief-data.ed.gov. Of the $13.2 billion Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) Fund, which was awarded to the 50 states, Puerto Rico, and Washington, D.C., $1.6 billion or 12% of the total had been spent. Of the $3 billion allocated to the Governor’s Emergency Education Relief (GEER) Fund, a total of $535 million or 18% had been spent. Thirty-four governors had yet to spend more than one percent of their allocated funding.

The Department also awarded a total of nearly $14 billion in grants through the Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund (HEERF) to more than 5,000 institutions of higher education. By law, about half of those awards need to be distributed to students in the form of emergency financial aid grants. As of the end of September, institutions had spent $9 billion or 64% of the total.

Secretary DeVos said: “We awarded the CARES Act money quickly. This portal now provides transparency into what happened next. States that neglected their obligations to provide full-time education, while complaining about a lack of resources, have left significant sums of money sitting in the bank. There may be valid reasons for states to be deliberate in how they spend CARES Act resources, but these data make clear there is little to support their claims of being cash-poor.”

A copy of the Secretary’s press release is found at: https://www.ed.gov/news/press-releases/secretary-devos-unveils-interactive-online-portal-provide-transparency-use-cares-act-education-funding-states-grantees

ED releases new reports to FSA Data Center

On Nov. 20, 2020, Federal Student Aid (FSA) released a series of quarterly updates to its portfolio reports on its FSA Data Center to include data as of Sept. 30, 2020. These reports reflect changes made to borrower accounts because of the administration’s executive actions and provisions included as part of the CARES Act, which was signed on March 27, 2020.

Some of the key findings of the updates include the following:

  • As of Sept. 30, 2020, the outstanding federal student loan portfolio is $1.56 trillion representing 42.9 million unduplicated recipients.
  • As a result of student loan flexibilities introduced at the end of March 2020, about 400,000 Direct Loan recipients’ loans were in repayment as of Sept. 30, 2020, compared to 18.5 million recipients one year ago. Those in repayment represent those customers who have opted out of the CARES Act payment suspension.
  • More than 22 million Direct Loan borrowers with outstanding loans totaling about $887 billion are now in forbearance status. More than 99% of the total balances in forbearance are in a mandatory administrative forbearance used for the special CARES Act forbearance, increased from $1.7 billion last September to more than $882 billion this September.
  • As of Sept. 30, 2020, during the 2020-2021 application cycle, about 15.8 million FAFSA applications were submitted, a 1.8% increase from the same time period in the prior application year.
  • As of Sept. 30, 2020, almost 334,000 borrower defense to repayment applications have been submitted. Of these applications, 39% are pending decision, including about 80,000 applications that are awaiting adjudication and about 50,000 that are pending notification. More than 61,000 applications were deemed eligible for borrower defense to repayment, 131,000 applications were deemed ineligible, and the remaining 11,000 applications were closed.

A copy of the electronic announcement is found at: https://ifap.ed.gov/electronic-announcements/112020FSAPostsNewRpts2FSADataCtr

ACE and 46 other college associations ask Secretary of Education to extend current suspension of payments, zero percent interest, and collection on defaulted student loans until Dec. 31, 2021

On Nov. 20, 2020, the American Council on Education (ACE) and 46 other college associations sent a letter to Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos urging her to extend the current suspension of payments and zero percent interest for federal student loan borrowers, as well as the suspension of collections on defaulted federal student loans, until Dec. 31, 2021. The letter said that the Secretary had authorized these borrower relief measures in March, which were subsequently included in the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act with an expiration of Sept. 30, 2020. In August, the Trump administration extended the measures through Dec. 31, 2020. The college associations urged the Secretary to extend relief until Dec. 31, 2021, or until the federal government declares an end to the pandemic, whichever occurs first.

A copy of the letter is found at: https://www.acenet.edu/Documents/Letter-ED-Borrower-Relief-Extension-112020.pdf

FSA releases Annual Report for FY 2020

In mid-November, the Office of Federal Student Aid (FSA) released its Annual Report for Fiscal Year 2020, which outlines its organizational mission and structure, performance management, analysis of financial statements, and analysis of systems, controls, and legal compliances. The report states that the federal student loan portfolio exceeds $1.5 trillion. It also documents the Department’s efforts to ensure compliance by its federal student loan servicers with the student loan relief provisions included in the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act and efforts made by FSA to notify employers to stop wage garnishments and expediting more than two million Treasury Offset Program/Administrative Wage Garnishment refund payments. The report noted that 41 million federal student loan borrowers are currently benefiting from the zero percent interest rate provision authorized under the CARES Act and extended through the President’s Executive Order until the end of the year. In addition, 23.8 million borrowers have suspended their monthly payments under the CARES Act, but about 4.6 million borrowers have opted to continue making monthly payments.

A copy of the “Annual Report” is found at: https://www2.ed.gov/about/reports/annual/2020report/fsa-report.pdf

OIG report finds ED needs improvement in meeting cybersecurity initiatives

The Office of Inspector General (OIG) released a report titled, “The U.S. Department of Education’s Federal Information Security Modernization Act of the 2014 Report, for Fiscal Year 2020,” which stated that the Department was making progress with meeting its cybersecurity initiatives, but still had much room for improvement. The report measured how the Department is meeting the standards included in the Federal Information Security Modernization Act of 2014 (FISMA). The report concluded that while it made progress in strengthening its information security system programs, improvement was needed specifically with regard to risk management, configuration management, identification and access management, and incident response. With respect to ED’s and FSA’s websites, the report found both websites contain outdated protocols that leave them susceptible to cyberattacks.

A copy of the OIG Report is found at: https://www2.ed.gov/about/offices/list/oig/auditreports/fy2020/a11u0001.pdf

OIG releases its Annual Plan for FY 2021-2022

The U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Inspector General (OIG) recently released its Annual Plan for Fiscal Year 2021-2022, October 2020, which identifies the audits, inspections, and other activities that it intends to undertake over the next two years. Under the plan, the OIG plans to focus on four priority areas: (1) specialized work specific to the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act and disaster recovery; (2) federal student aid programs and operations; (3) K–12 grant programs and operations; and (4) Department management and operations.

Areas of interest included in the Annual Plan include:

  • (New) Cancellation of Borrower Loans and Implementation of Title IV Waiver Requirements – OIG will determine whether Federal Student Aid (FSA): (1) designed processes for implementing waivers to the return of Title IV funds and the cancellation of Direct Loans for students who withdrew because of the COVID-19 pandemic, and (2) implemented the processes in accordance with the CARES Act, federal regulations, and Department guidance. Also, OIG will determine whether selected schools complied with the provisions in the CARES Act, federal regulations, and Department guidance for waivers to the return of Title IV funds for students who withdrew because of the pandemic.
  • (New) Exclusion of Subsidized Loan Usage and Federal Pell Grant Lifetime Usage – OIG will determine whether FSA excluded from students’ subsidized loan usage and Pell Grant lifetime usage any payment periods that the students did not complete because of qualifying emergencies.
  • (New) Department’s Processes to Implement Flexibilities to Teacher Education Assistance for College and Higher Education (TEACH) Grant Service Obligations – OIG will evaluate FSA’s plans to: (1) excuse portions of TEACH Grant service obligations under COVID-19, and (2) ensure TEACH grantees receive full-time credit toward their service obligations for part-time and temporarily interrupted service due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • (Continuation) FSA’s Implementation of Temporary Borrower Relief Under the CARES Act: Suspension of Involuntary Collections on Defaulted Student Loans – OIG will continue to evaluate the results of FSA’s process for: (1) suspending involuntary collections on defaulted Department-held loans in response to the national emergency due to the coronavirus pandemic, and (2) refunding payments involuntarily collected on defaulted Department-held loans in accordance with Department regulations and guidance.
  • (New) Experimental Sites Initiative Second Chance Pell Experiment – OIG will determine whether the Department designed and implemented the Second Chance Pell experiment to include meaningful and measurable results to support changes to the Higher Education Act of 1965, as amended, or regulations.
  • (New) Monitoring of Title IV Program Participants: The Department’s Plans and Processes to Proactively Monitor the Financial Health of Postsecondary Schools – OIG will evaluate the Department’s plans and processes for monitoring the financial health of postsecondary schools during the pandemic to mitigate harm to students and taxpayers.
  • (New) Postsecondary Education for Students Without a High School Diploma or the Certificate of Equivalency School Compliance with Career Pathway Programs and Ability to Benefit Provisions – OIG will determine the extent to which FSA: (1) maintained information on which schools provide career pathway programs, (2) reviewed the eligibility of career pathway programs through program reviews and compliance audits, and (3) accurately identified and ensured correction of any program weaknesses. Also, OIG will determine the extent to which: (1) selected schools developed and implemented career pathway programs that met Higher Education Act eligibility requirements, (2) students enrolled in selected schools’ career pathway programs met ability-to-benefit requirements, and (3) schools correctly calculated career pathway program students’ cost of attendance and Title IV aid awards and correctly determined students’ enrollment statuses.
  • (New) Streamlining Student Aid Systems and Processes FSA’s Transition to the Next Generation FSA Financial Services Environment – OIG will assess the effectiveness of FSA’s life cycle management under the Next Generation FSA contracts.
  • (New) FSA’s Implementation of the NextGen Payment Vehicle Account Program Pilot – OIG will determine whether the payment vehicle program pilot agreements contained safeguards to protect students and whether FSA had processes to effectively evaluate the pilot program.

A copy of the OIG Annual Plan is found at: https://www2.ed.gov/about/offices/list/oig/misc/wp20212022.pdf

Sharon Bob

SHARON H. BOB PH.D., Higher Education Specialist on Policy and Regulation, is a member of the Education Group at the Washington, DC law firm of Powers Pyles Sutter & Verville, PC. Dr. Bob advises all sectors of higher education regarding strategic issues pertaining to their participation in the federal student financial assistance programs, accreditation, licensure, education tax benefits, and related regulatory matters.

Contact Information: Sharon H. Bob, Ph.D. // Higher Education Specialist // Powers Pyles Sutter and Verville, PC // 1501 M Street, NW, Suite 700, Washington, DC 20005 // 202-872-6772 // Sharon.Bob@PowersLaw.com // http://www.powerslaw.com


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