Secretary DeVos Applauds Consensus on Higher Education Reforms

U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos welcomed news today that the committee debating her proposed “Accreditation and Innovation” higher education reforms reached consensus on the text of the draft rules. The package of higher education regulations is aimed at rethinking higher education to improve outcomes and accountability for students, institutions and taxpayers. The draft regulations, which will next be published for public comment, come after months of negotiated rulemaking that engaged a wide variety of higher education stakeholders.

“Today’s historic action proves just how much can be accomplished on behalf of students when we put their needs above all else,” said U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos. “Rethinking higher education required each person at the negotiating table to challenge assumptions and examine past practice in order to better serve students. I commend them for doing just that.

“The committee recognized that higher education has changed in many ways since the last reauthorization of the Higher Education Act, including in the use of innovative technologies. These changes will allow students to work at their own pace to earn a college degree, obtain credit for proving what they already know and earn a credential aligned with employers’ job requirements.  The new policies and procedures will also work against unnecessary credential inflation that drives up cost and reduces the opportunity for low-income students to prepare for certain jobs.

Full story at ed.gov

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

U.S. Department of Education Acts to Protect Social Security Benefits for Borrowers with Disabilities

The U.S. Department of Education announced today a new process to proactively identify and assist federal student loan borrowers with disabilities who may be eligible for Total and Permanent Disability (TPD) loan discharge. This effort was called for by President Obama in his Student Aid Bill of Rights, which details measures to make paying for higher education an easier and fairer experience for millions of Americans. The Higher Education Act allows for loan forgiveness for borrowers who are totally and permanently disabled. By proactively identifying and engaging borrowers who may be eligible for TPD loan discharge, the Department is fulfilling its commitment to ensure that borrowers who are totally and permanently disabled have the information needed to take full advantage of the debt relief to which they are entitled.

“In 2012, the Administration took steps to streamline the process to allow for Americans who are totally and permanently disabled to use their Social Security designation to apply to have their loans discharged. But too many eligible borrowers were falling through the cracks, unaware they were eligible for relief. Borrowers like one such woman whose side effects from her breast cancer treatment left her totally and permanently disabled. After repeated attempts, she finally received a disability discharge—seven years after her first application,” said U.S. Education Under Secretary Ted Mitchell. “Under the new process, we will notify potentially eligible borrowers about the benefit and guide them through steps needed to discharge their loans, helping thousands of borrowers. Americans with disabilities have a right to student loan relief. And we need to make it easier, not harder, for them to receive the benefits they are due.”

Full story of social security benefits for borrows with disabilities at ed.gov

For-Profit College Company to Pay $95.5 Million to Settle Claims of Illegal Recruiting, Consumer Fraud and Other Violations

WASHINGTON – The United States has reached a landmark global settlement with Education Management Corp. (EDMC), the second-largest for-profit education company in the country, the Department of Justice announced today. The $95.5 million settlement resolves allegations that EDMC violated federal and state False Claims Act (FCA) provisions by falsely certifying that it was in compliance with Title IV of the Higher Education Act (HEA) and parallel state statutes.

“This historic resolution exemplifies the Justice Department’s deep commitment to protecting precious public resources; to defending American consumers; and to standing up for those who are vulnerable to mistreatment, abuse, and exploitation,” said Attorney General Loretta E. Lynch.  “Operating essentially as a recruitment mill, EDMC’s actions were not only a violation of federal law but also a violation of the trust placed in them by their students – including veterans and working parents – all at taxpayer expense.  In the days ahead, we will continue working with our invaluable partners at the U.S. Department of Education, through initiatives like the inter-agency task force on for-profit education, to ensure that our nation’s aspiring learners are finding and gaining access to educational opportunities that are right for them.”

Full story of claims of illegal recruiting and consumer fraud at ed.gov

U.S. Department of Education Completes Review of Major Student Loan Servicers

As a part of the Obama Administration’s commitment to protect student loan borrowers, the U.S. Department of Education conducted thorough reviews of the four major federal student loan servicers to ensure that the companies followed federal law when it comes to loan interest rates for active-duty servicemembers.

The reviews by the Department found that the four servicers – Navient, Great Lakes, PHEAA and Nelnet – complied in the vast majority of cases with the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA) as required by the Higher Education Act (HEA). The reviews, which looked at active-duty servicemembers’ SCRA eligibility between 2009 and 2014, show that in less than 1 percent of cases, borrowers were incorrectly denied the 6 percent interest rate cap required by the laws.

Full story on the student loan services review at ed.gov