The Education Department is stepping up its oversight of how colleges work with out. The new rules are meant to stop predatory practices that are costing students millions of dollars in federal financial aid.
The department is also requiring colleges to post financial arrangements on their websites. These will provide more transparency to the public and allow the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) to identify problematic practices.
Education Secretary Betsy DeVos Announces New Rules for Colleges
Education Secretary Betsy DeVos on Wednesday announced new rules that increase oversight of how colleges work with students accused of sexual misconduct. The rule reshapes how institutions investigate, prosecute and punish cases of sexual harassment on college campuses.
The changes, which go into effect in August 2020, bolster the rights of accused students, including a requirement that colleges provide them live hearings and allow their advisers to cross-examine witnesses and parties involved. They also reduce legal liabilities for schools and colleges.
But some advocates say the rules will hurt survivors and make it more difficult for them to pursue redress. They also worry they will be a burden on colleges and universities, which are already facing budget shortfalls.
Many colleges have been scrambling to update their Title IX policies and implement the rules. Some are also concerned about how the new regulations will affect study abroad programs.
For example, the new regulations define stalking, domestic violence and dating violence as sexual harassment under Title IX. That could mean schools would be forced to respond to cases of sexual assault or harassment that occurred outside the United States.
The changes also require that colleges use the same standard of proof when considering allegations of student or faculty misconduct–an option that has been criticized by some educators and advocates. They also expand the definition of “sexual harassment” to include conduct that a reasonable person would find unwelcome and that a student might feel inhibits equal educational opportunity.
While these changes are welcome, they will likely ensnare the Department of Education in lawsuits over their implementation. The ACLU, for instance, filed a brief arguing that the Education Department erred in adopting the Supreme Court’s “actual knowledge” standard of proof in its final rules.
But the Education Department’s response to these arguments was so thorough and careful that it is unlikely to be challenged in court. Nonetheless, the ACLU is urging the department to change some of its regulations before they take effect next year, and Senator Patty Murray (Wash.), a leading Democrat on the Senate Education Committee, says she might try to add an amendment to the Higher Education Act that would return to the Obama administration’s policies.
The Department of Education (ED) is stepping up its oversight of how colleges work with out.
The Department of Education is the Cabinet-level agency that sets policy and administers most federal assistance to education. It helps the president execute his policies for the nation’s schools and carries out laws enacted by Congress. It is one of the smallest agencies of the federal government, but it serves an important role in the United States.
The department’s 4,400 employees and $68 billion budget are dedicated to establishing policies related to federal financial aid for education, distributing as well as monitoring those funds, collecting data on America’s schools, disseminating research, focusing national attention on key educational issues and prohibiting discrimination in programs that receive federal funds.
This information is used to improve the quality of education and help ensure that children and students in the United States have access to a high-quality public school system. This includes helping to recruit and retain a qualified teaching staff, strengthening the quality of elementary and secondary schools, and improving the academic achievement of at-risk students, such as Native Hawaiian and Alaska Native children and youth.
These activities include providing direct student financial aid through the Office of Federal Student Aid, which distributes grants to colleges, universities, and trade schools to help students pay for their education. The Department also provides funding for programs that help educators to learn about new methods of teaching and how to implement those techniques.
Another program is the Institute of Education Sciences, which collects and spreads knowledge about the condition of American schools by conducting research. It disseminates this research to education leaders, parents and researchers through a variety of publications–both printed and online.
There are many other agencies and organizations involved in education-related research. These can range from state and local educational agencies to federal organizations such as the National Science Foundation, the National Mathematics Foundation, the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics and the Institute of Education Sciences.
The Department of Education also carries out several programs that provide direct financial assistance to state and local educational agencies, institutions of higher education, community and faith-based organizations. These funding programs are administered through formulas or through discretionary grant programs authorized by Congress. Some of these programs are set up to award money to eligible entities based on specific criteria, such as the number of special needs students in a particular school district.
The department is requiring colleges to post financial arrangements on their websites.
A new guideline from the education department tasked schools with a daunting task of keeping their finger on the pulse when it comes to campus finance. In the spirit of transparency, the department is now requiring colleges to post their financial arrangements on their official campus websites. The most significant improvement is a revamped student financial aid page, which will include a central hub for the collection and management of all student financial information. The latest effort is aimed at enhancing the quality of that information, which will help students make informed decisions about their college choices, and avoid costly pitfalls down the line. The department also unveiled a series of best practices and tools for better stewarding student money, including a suite of student loan and credit card data quality tools that will help the next generation navigate their financial aid journey.
The department is requiring colleges to submit financial information to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB).
The CFPB is a federal agency that oversees the financial laws that protect consumers. These laws include mortgages, student loans, credit cards, and more. It also ensures that the banks, credit unions, and other financial companies that provide these services play by the rules.
The agency was created by the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act of 2010. Its director is appointed by President Obama, and its mission is to facilitate development of the financial services marketplace so that consumers have access to transparent prices and risks and become aware of deceptive and abusive practices in the industry.
Under the law, the CFPB is required to review all agreements between higher education institutions and banking entities for any arrangements that violate federal law. This includes agreements that allow financial services providers to pay partner schools, the terms of those deals, and compensation flowing between them.
Nearly 30% of the accounts CFPB sampled were covered by agreements that allowed for payment to partners, according to the report. The regulator found that most of the colleges in the sample did not post these agreements on their websites as required.
Many of the agreements did not appear to meet Department of Education requirements, according to the CFPB. For example, students were directed to lists of account options that did not appear to meet the requirement that students be allowed to select from a neutral list and can’t be coerced into selecting college-sponsored products under threat that their financial aid disbursements would be delayed.
Some contracts with account providers also include revenue-share agreements or incentives that kick in for the school when a certain number of accounts open. The CFPB said these contracts sometimes make it possible for college-sponsored accounts to be charged monthly fees if their account holders deposit less than $300 in qualifying deposits, such as financial aid disbursements.
The CFPB has found that these arrangements can result in students being charged excessive fees for basic services such as checking and savings accounts, ATM and debit cards, and other features. It has also found that banks often charge a fee for withdrawals from a college-sponsored account that are not based on how much the student withdraws. These charges can add up quickly, and they may affect a student’s ability to save money for the future.