APSCU Delivers Remarks at U.S. Department of Education Public Hearing
Washington, D.C., May 21, 2013—APSCU President and CEO Steve Gunderson spoke at today's U.S. Department of Education public hearing on the intention to establish a negotiated rulemaking committee. His comments, as prepared for delivery, appear below:
Good afternoon, I am Steve Gunderson, President and CEO of the Association of Private Sector Colleges and Universities. I am here today representing four million students and the thousands of dedicated educators and staff working at our member institutions. Our schools provide the full range of higher education programs to students looking for career-focused education.
Recently, APSCU presented a comprehensive proposal for Higher Education Act Reauthorization. Our proposal focuses on students and positive student outcomes and is centered on three key goals: simplicity, affordability, and transparency. We call upon both the department and the Congress to recognize the need to move in this direction.
On behalf of our students and institutions, we encourage the department to postpone convening new negotiated rulemaking sessions, particularly for controversial topics and areas likely to be impacted by reauthorization. It is our hope that the department and Congress will work out complementary schedules for both reauthorization and the regulations to implement HEA.
As the higher education sector seeks to maximize student service while holding down costs and confusion, it will be important for the department and Congress to collaborate. In challenging economic times, all institutions--the department and all colleges and universities--should focus available funds on educating students and not on navigating conflicting directions from the legislative and executive branches.
Today, none of us can predict what the House or the Senate will do. But I believe it is safe to predict the focus will be on holding down costs, simplifying the process for students, and promoting transparency. Our proposal calls for the department to use its existing authority for demonstration projects as a means for innovation in higher education. We strongly encourage this recognizing no new regulations are required to achieve such outcomes.
If the department chooses to proceed, we urge you to carefully consider improvements to the rulemaking process:
Allow me to make specific reference to some of the proposed topics for rulemaking.
The promulgation of state authorization for programs offered through distance education or correspondence education as part of the program integrity rules issued on October 29, 2010, is an example of the department issuing rules that the negotiating committee was unable to fully discuss because of time constraints and too many topics before one team. It is a prime example of rules the department is issuing that Congress does not necessarily support.
Since the state authorization for distance education provision was overturned by the courts, many states and organizations have taken the time to thoughtfully consider the best ways to approach this topic, including the Commission on the Regulation of Postsecondary Distance Education.
Their recommendations propose a voluntary system of reciprocity with states, reflecting existing state and federal structures.
We appreciate the department’s decision to delay, until July 2014, the state authorization rules. Unfortunately, the guidance does not provide information about which states the department considers compliant. The department must take on this task and make the information and department decisions on state compliance public.
It has been almost two years since the clock/credit-hour rules have been in effect, and we are still waiting for guidance on this issue. At this point, the best outcome may be for the department to leave determinations related to clock and credit hours to the accreditors working with the institutions.
On the PLUS Loan Program, a more commonsense approach during the initial approval process could result in substantially fewer denials and appeals, easing burdens on the department and anxiety for parents and students. We encourage the department to ensure that deserving PLUS Loan applicants are being carefully considered and assisted before being denied.
I sincerely hope the department chooses to spend its time working with institutions to help reduce costs and regulatory burdens and advance innovative solutions to help all institutions serve all students better.