New Federal Rules Matter for All Colleges

It’s not just for-profit schools worried about the 13 new federal rules for colleges. Jennifer Gonzalez writes in the Chronicle of Higher Education that traditional public and private colleges also worry about how they will fare under new Department of Education guidlines. According to Gonzalez:

…The set of 13 proposed regulations the department unveiled last month would also apply to nonprofit private and public colleges, which are worried that some of the rules would undermine their autonomy, unnecessarily limit states’ flexibility in overseeing their programs, and introduce burdensome reporting requirements that would not yield better information for students.

Two new regulations are particularly troublesome for colleges. The first regulation requires states to take a greater role in preventing and closing diploma mills, colleges that offer degrees for a fee but don’t require students to perform academic work. Many academic administrators worry that this particular rule represents federal intrusion into education and will force states to create expensive, complicated bureaucracies.

The second rule has to do with academic credits. College students receive federal education money based on the number of college credits they take. But there are no official definitions for credit hours and the rule change defines a “credit hour as a unit measuring the amount of work consisting of one hour of classroom or direct faculty instruction and at least two hours of student work outside the classroom over a set period of time,” according to the article. Many colleges worry that this new definition essentially measures just how long students sit in classrooms and will dissuade colleges from engaging in innovative, and potentially more effective, teaching.

Colleges are still awaiting the department’s most controversial decision, the rule about gainful employment. Observers expect the under the new rule certain schools wouldn’t be eligible for federal financial aid if average graduates need to spend more than 8 percent of starting salaries to service student loans. This rule is likely to limit the earnings of for-profit colleges.

While this rule will technically apply to any schools with vocational programs, community colleges aren’t terribly worried about the provision because students in those schools don’t assume much debt to obtain their education.

Daniel Luzer

Daniel Luzer is the news editor at Governing Magazine and former web editor of the Washington Monthly. Find him on Twitter: @Daniel_Luzer