November 22, 2019

Higher Ed Policy Roundup: Vol. 3 - Issue 41

Policy and Advocacy

This Week In Washington

On Wednesday, the Department of Education (ED) released a redesigned College Scorecard that for the first time allows students to see data on debt and earnings based on fields of study, graduation rates and apprenticeships. According to ED, this new change means that “a student interested in studying engineering can now compare outcomes, such as first-year earnings and student loan debt, among engineering programs within an institution and among those offered at other schools.” Prior to this change, students were only able to see the median earnings and median debt at the institutional level rather than the program level. The updated College Scorecard can be found here.

Yesterday, ED announced that beginning in the 2020-21 award year, all Direct Loan borrowers will have to view how much they currently owe in federal student loans and acknowledge that they have seen this amount before a school can make new Direct Loan disbursements each new award year. Guidance on this new process can be found here.

Last week, the Office of Inspector General (OIG) at ED released a report discussing ED’s most serious management and performance challenges. The report identified four areas of concern facing ED: (1) improper payments, (2) information technology security, (3) oversight and monitoring, and (4) data quality and reporting. Concerning improper payments, OIG highlighted that ED reported improper payments of $2.3 billion for the Pell Grant program and $3.8 billion for Direct Loans in FY2018. In addition to the areas of concern, the report also includes an assessment of ED’s progress in addressing the four challenges and identifies additional actions ED can take to increase the effectiveness of ED’s programs and operations.

News You Can Use

Urban Institute released a brief finding that financially knowledgeable adults were 41 percent less likely to have been past due on a student loan payment.

The Institute for College Access & Success released a report making recommendations to strengthen the Cohort Default Rate.

New America released a report that examines the shared responsibility of states, accreditors and the federal government (commonly referred to as the “triad”) and offers recommendations for how the triad can strengthen accountability and student outcomes.

Last week, Georgetown University published a study that used new data to try to calculate return on investment for thousands of higher education institutions across the U.S.

Recent Legislation

The following bill(s) have been recently introduced for consideration by the 116th Congress (2019-2020):

H.R. 5148Higher Education Standards Improvement Act [Rep. Mike Levin (D-CA-49)] provides states with direct oversight responsibility over closure readiness at colleges and universities.

H.R. 5204Student Mental Health Rights Act [Rep. Katie Porter (D-CA-45)] directs ED to study student mental health and campus policies at postsecondary schools and then to issue guidance on how higher education institutions can best come into compliance with existing federal guidelines.