Education Department Proposes Rule on State Authorization of Postsecondary Distance Education, Foreign Locations

The U.S. Department of Education today proposed regulations that seek to improve oversight and protect more than 5.5 million distance education students at degree-granting institutionsincluding nearly 3 million exclusively online students by clarifying the state authorization requirements for postsecondary distance education.

To ensure that institutions offering distance education are legally authorized and monitored by states, as required by the Higher Education Act, the proposed regulations clarify state authorization requirements for institutions to participate in the Department’s federal student aid programs. The proposed regulations also address state and federal oversight of American colleges operating in foreign locations worldwide.

“These proposed regulations achieve an important balance between accountability and flexibility, and in so doing create better protections for students and taxpayers,” said U.S. Under Secretary of Education Ted Mitchell. ”Additionally, these regulations promote and clarify state authorization procedures, further strengthening the integrity of federal financial aid programs.”

Full story of state authorization of post-secondary distance education at ed.gov

Education Department to Implement Improved Customer Service and Enhanced Protections for Student Loan Borrowers

As part of a continued effort to implement a new vision for student loan servicing that ensures the more than 40 million Americans with student loan debt get high-quality customer service and fair treatment as they repay their loans, the U.S. Department of Education today outlined a series of enhanced protections and customer service standards that will guide the future of federal student loan servicing practices. The policies were outlined in a memorandum from U.S. Under Secretary of Education Ted Mitchell to Federal Student Aid (FSA), which will implement the policy directives to strengthen student loan servicing during the ongoing procurement process. These policies were developed in consultation with the U.S. Department of the Treasury (Treasury) and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB).

“Today’s policy directive is a big win for tens of millions of borrowers,” said U.S. Secretary of Education John B. King Jr. ”It will help ensure that student loan borrowers get the service they deserve.” While the majority of federal student loan borrowers continue to successfully repay their student loans, there are still too many borrowers who are struggling, or who may be at risk of defaulting on their loans. Since taking office, President Obama and his Administration have worked hard to keep college affordable and help student loan borrowers manage their debt. In March 2015, as part of that effort, the President unveiled a Student Aid Bill of Rightsdirecting federal agencies to work together on a series of actions to help borrowers manage their student debt.

Full story of ED improving customer service for student loan borrows at ed.gov

Murphy, Fudge Introduce Stronger Together School Diversity Act of 2016

WASHINGTON — U.S. Senator Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), member of the U.S. Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee, and Congresswoman Marcia L. Fudge (Ohio-11), Ranking Member of the Subcommittee on Early Childhood, Elementary and Secondary Education of the U.S. House Committee on Education and the Workforce, on Tuesday introduced the Stronger Together School Diversity Act of 2016 to promote diversity in schools. The bill builds on President Obama’s FY 2017 Stronger Together budget proposal, and consists of a voluntary program to support the development and expansion of new and existing community-driven strategies to increase diversity in America’s schools. In June, Murphy joined U.S. Education Secretary John B. King Jr. at an event in the U.S. Capitol to discuss the opportunity for increased diversity in schools and communities to drive positive student outcomes in school and in life.

An April 2016 Government Accountability Office report found that the number of socioeconomic and racially segregated schools is increasing, negatively impacting students nationwide. The data shows that poor, segregated schools receive fewer resources, offer students fewer educational opportunities and take more disciplinary actions. Expanding socioeconomic and racial diversity in schools will reverse these troubling trends and help future generations of students receive the education they deserve. In fact, students from low-income households who attend diverse schools are nearly 70 percent more likely to attend college than students from low-income households who attend high-poverty schools. The Stronger Together School Diversity Act of 2016 provides planning and implementation grants to help school districts find voluntary local solutions, implement new strategies, and expand existing diversity initiatives.

Full story on Stronger Together School Diversity Act at ed.gov

U.S. Education Department Settles Sexual Assault Case with Minot State University, N.D.

The U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR) announced today that it has entered into a resolution agreement with Minot State University, North Dakota, after finding the university in violation of Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972.

OCR found that the university failed to process a complaint brought by a former student (Student A) who reported that during her time at the school, she had been sexually assaulted for over two years by one of her professors. Despite the serious nature of the complaint, OCR determined that Minot State did not take any steps to address the effects of the hostile environment to which the student reported she had been subjected.

“Minot State University has committed to take critically necessary steps to bring its practices, and its policies, into compliance with Title IX, correcting significant safety gaps that had persisted for too long for its students,” said Catherine E. Lhamon, assistant secretary for civil rights. “I am grateful for the university’s commitment to satisfying its students’ civil rights going forward.”

Full story of the sexual assault case with Minot State University at ed.gov

Report: Increases in Spending on Corrections Far Outpace Education

State and local spending on prisons and jails has increased at triple the rate of funding for public education for preschool through grade P-12 education in the last three decades, a new analysis by the U.S. Department of Education found.

Released today, the report, Trends in State and Local Expenditures on Corrections and Education, notes that even when population changes are factored in, 23 states increased per capita spending on corrections at more than double the rate of increases in per-pupil P-12 spending. Seven states—Idaho, Michigan, Montana, North Dakota, South Carolina, South Dakota, and West Virginia—increased their corrections budgets more than five times as fast as they did their allocations for P-12 public education. The report also paints a particularly stark picture of higher education spending across the country at a time when postsecondary education matters more than ever. Since 1990, state and local spending on higher education has been largely flat while spending on corrections has increased 89 percent.

“Budgets reflect our values, and the trends revealed in this analysis are a reflection of our nation’s priorities that should be revisited,” said U.S. Secretary of Education John B. King Jr. “For far too long, systems in this country have continued to perpetuate inequity. We must choose to make more investments in our children’s future. We need to invest more in prevention than in punishment, to invest more in schools, not prisons.”

Full story of spending on corrections for education at ed.gov

New Feedback System Launched for Federal Student Aid Customers

The U.S. Department of Education today officially launched the Federal Student Aid (FSA) Feedback System, an online portal that allows federal student aid customers to submit complaints, provide positive feedback, and report allegations of suspicious activity regarding their experience with federal student aid programs.

The creation of the FSA Feedback System fulfills one of the primary objectives of the President’s 2015 Student Aid Bill of Rights—continuing the Obama Administration’s work to help borrowers responsibly manage their federal student debt, improve federal student loan servicing, and protect taxpayers’ investments in the student aid programs. Customers can access the system at StudentAid.gov/feedback.

“The FSA Feedback System provides an easy way for students, parents, borrowers and others to file complaints about their experiences with federal aid programs, which we will use to improve the experience for current and future borrowers,” said U.S. Under Secretary of Education Ted Mitchell. “We want to hear about what isn’t working so that we can fix problems and improve outcomes for borrowers.”

Full story of feedback system launched for student aid at ed.gov

Obama Administration Announces New Regulations to Strengthen Employment and Training Opportunities for Millions of Americans

The U.S. Departments of Labor and Education today made publicly available the final rules to implement the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA), an historic expansion of opportunity for the nation’s job seekers, workers and employers. The regulations deliver on need to modernize the nation’s workforce system and represent a more integrated, job-driven approach to support communities and expand job growth.

The rules reflect input from stakeholders including employers and community leaders and details what the goals of a modern, agile and effective workforce should be and how partners can work to achieve those goals. These rules aim to spur growth in local and regional economies; streamline and improve the coordination of employment and training services across federal agencies; and strengthen collaboration between the federal government employers, states, and municipalities. The WIOA Final Rules include reforms that will affect more than a dozen programs receiving $10 billion in annual training and education funding and programs that serve approximately 20 million Americans each year.

Full story of Obama’s new regulations to strengthen employment at ed.gov

Education Department’s Special Master Delivers Fourth Report on Debt Relief Process for Student Borrowers

As part of the Obama Administration’s continued commitment to ensure that defrauded students have a path to debt relief with minimal burden, Special Master Joseph A. Smith has delivered his fourth and final borrower defense progress report to the U.S. Department of Education.

“Joe has shown tremendous leadership, thoughtfulness and insight during his tenure as Special Master,” Under Secretary of Education Ted Mitchell said. “All of us at the Department are grateful for his diligence in support of our efforts to provide debt forgiveness to students who have been mistreated and defrauded by predatory institutions.”

The report details the numbers and status of borrower defense claims and the Department’s continued efforts to reach former Corinthian College students who may be eligible for relief based on Department findings of school misconduct. Additionally, the report describes the creation of a new application form to facilitate borrower defense discharge claims. The Department’s Student Aid Enforcement Unit, located within Federal Student Aid (FSA), will oversee the borrower defense program, and will continue to provide periodic progress reports. The Enforcement Unit was established in February to respond more quickly and efficiently to allegations of illegal actions by postsecondary institutions. All reports will be made public.

Full story of the fourth report on debt relief for students at ed.gov

Settlements Reached in Seven States, One Territory to Ensure Website Accessibility for People with Disabilities

The U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR) today announced that it has reached settlements with education organizations in seven states and one territory to ensure website accessibility for people with disabilities.

OCR had received complaints involving each of the organizations, resulting in investigations. But before OCR had completed its probes, each of the 11 parties expressed interest in resolving their cases voluntarily, resulting in the agreements announced today. The settlements involved: Juneau, Alaska, School District; the Guam Department of Education; Montana School for the Deaf and Blind; Santa Fe, New Mexico, Public Schools; Washoe County, Nevada, School District; The Davidson Academy of Nevada; Nevada Department of Education; Oregon Department of Education; Granite, Utah, School District; Bellingham, Washington, School District; and the Washington Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction.

“As schools, school districts, states, and territories turn to the internet as a way to provide relevant and up-to-date information to their audiences in a cost-effective manner, they must make sure they are not inadvertently excluding people with disabilities from their online programs, services, and activities,” said Catherine E. Lhamon, assistant secretary for civil rights. “I applaud each of these signatories who have committed to ensuring that their websites are accessible to people with disabilities.”

Full story of settlements to ensure Website accessibility for disabled at ed.gov

12,000 Incarcerated Students to Enroll in Postsecondary Educational and Training Programs Through Education Department’s New Second Chance Pell Pilot Program

The Department of Education announced today 67 colleges and universities selected to participate in the new Second Chance Pell pilot program, an experiment announced in July 2015 to test whether participation in high quality education programs increases after expanding access to financial aid for incarcerated individuals. The pilot program will allow eligible incarcerated Americans to receive Pell Grants and pursue postsecondary education with the goal of helping them get jobs and support their families when they are released. Today’s announcement builds on the Obama Administration’s commitment to create a fairer and more effective criminal justice system, reduce recidivism, and combat the impact of mass incarceration on families and communities through educational opportunity.

The United States currently has the highest incarceration rate in the world with approximately 2.2 million people incarcerated in American prisons and jails. Hundreds of thousands of individuals are released annually from these facilities. A 2013 study from the RAND Corporation, funded by the Department of Justice, found that incarcerated individuals who participated in correctional education were 43 percent less likely to return to prison within three years than prisoners who did not participate in any correctional education programs. RAND also estimated that for every dollar invested in correctional education programs, four to five dollars are saved on three-year re-incarceration costs.

Full story of the new Second Chance Pell Pilot Program at ed.gov