Capital Thinking: Education

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Legislative Activity

FY 2014 Appropriations

Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee Chairman Tom Harkin (D-IA) stated last week that negotiators are making progress on the Labor-HHS-Education appropriations bill, which is typically the most contentious of the 12 appropriations bills. A draft of the bill – expected to be released Friday, January 10 – is rumored to include controversial policy riders but also funding for early childhood education programs. The measure would be included in the omnibus appropriations bill if it is completed in time.

Federal Financial Aid Program Integrity

In response to a November 2013 Department of Education Federal Register notice announcing the formation of a new negotiated rulemaking panel related to program integrity for federal financial aid, Chairman of the House Education and the Workforce Committee and Subcommittee Chairwoman of the Higher Education and Workforce Training panel sent a letter on January 7 to Education Secretary Arne Duncan urging him to “ensure the panel is fair and representative of all stakeholders who may be directly affected by the broad array of topics to be debated during the upcoming rulemaking session.” Negotiators are expected to be selected the week of January 20.

Upcoming Hearings:

  • Thursday, January 16: The Senate HELP Committee will hold its next hearing in the Higher Education Act series on federal college readiness programs, titled “Strengthening Federal Access Programs to Meet 21st Century Needs: A Look at TRIO and GEAR UP.” As such, stakeholders may submit comments in advance of the hearing to hea_reauth113@help.senate.gov.

REGULATORY ACTIVITY

College Affordability Summit

On Thursday, January 16, the White House will convene its College Affordability Summit for approximately 140 higher education leaders to discuss commitments to improve the recruitment and graduation of low-income students, expansion of the pool of low-income college students, and investments in remediation. These are all issues we expect the White House to address when it releases its blueprint for the Higher Education Act reauthorization next year.

Initially, the Summit was scheduled for Wednesday, December 11, but the administration postponed the meeting due to President Obama and the First Lady traveling to attend services for former South African President Nelson Mandela. The National Economic Council and Domestic Policy Council, along with the Department of Education, coordinated the meeting.

College Ratings System

On January 22, the Department of Education’s National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) will host a public meeting featuring a technical panel of nearly 20 experts from institutions of higher education, foundations, and other organizations including U.S. News & World Report and Gallup to discuss a college ratings system. Specific topics discussed will likely focus on the five categories of questions stakeholders are encouraged to respond to through the department’s Request for Information: (1) Data Elements, Metrics, and Data Collection; (2) Weighting and Scoring; (3) Development of Comparison Groups; (4) Presentation of Ratings Information; and (5) Existing Ratings Systems. The panelists may also be encouraged to discuss how to best minimize unintended consequences from establishing a college ratings system.

Following the symposium, NCES will publish a summary of the recommendations developed from the symposium and received from its Request for Information (due January 31) on the Department’s website: www.ed.gov/college-affordability.

Education Datapalooza

The White House and the Department of Education held two “Data Jams” in December to brainstorm creative ideas to improve postsecondary education. More than 200 national public and private sector innovators from higher education, industry, and technology participated and were challenged to use open data and work collaboratively to solve a series of challenges to increase students’ access and success to achieve the President’s goal “for the U.S. to have the best educated, most competitive workforce in the world by the year 2020.” Now, the White House and the Department will celebrate and spotlight some of the innovations resulting from the Data Jams and similar gatherings over the fall at an “Education Datapalooza” in Washington, D.C. on Wednesday, January 15.

Specifically, the program will focus on two areas of the President’s college affordability agenda: (1) empowering students and families with the information, apps, websites, and other tools to make informed decisions about going to and paying for college, and (2) leveraging technology to increase the quality of teaching in learning both online and in hybrid formats to improve college cost and quality. Interested stakeholders and media must register for the event by Tuesday, January 14 at http://www.whitehouse.gov/administration/eop/ostp/divisions/webform/Ed-datapalooza-registration.