Leaders in Professional, Continuing and Online Education

UPCEA joined with ACE and 35 other organizations yesterday to send a letter to the House Committee on Appropriations as they were approving spending bills for the Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education for fiscal year 2020. Today, the House Committee on Appropriations approved its bill, allocating $75.9 billion to the Department of Education (ED). The measure would increase the maximum Pell Grant award by $150 and boost funding for the National Institutes of Health by $2 billion, among the overall increases for student aid, higher education programs, and research.  We joined with ACE and 35 other higher education associations sent a letter to the committee in advance of the vote, expressing support and noting that the funding levels, if enacted, would “have a profoundly positive impact on the millions of college students who rely on federal financial aid to afford college.”

“The funding levels provided in this bill would, if enacted, have a profoundly positive impact on the millions of college students who rely on federal financial aid to afford college. The bill provides a $150 increase in the maximum Pell Grant, an increase that allows the grant to keep pace with inflation,” the groups wrote. “The bill also recognizes the vital role biomedical research plays in improving the quality of life for all Americans, while also strengthening our economy and global competitiveness, by providing a $2 billion increase in funding for research at the National Institutes of Health. ”

The $75.9 billion for ED includes $24.9 billion for federal student aid programs ($492 million above FY 2019) and $2.7 billion for higher education programs ($431 million above FY 2019). (Click here for a detailed breakdown of these totals.)

This legislation is a starting point​ for negotiations for the upcoming fiscal year, which begins Oct. 1. The Senate Appropriations Committee has yet to approve any spending bills.

Click here to read our letter to Chairwoman Lowey and Ranking Member Granger.

As part of the Department of Education’s recent and wide-ranging negotiated rulemaking, negotiators reached consensus on all of the topics discussed during their sessions. With only three minutes remaining in the time allotted for negotiators to do their work, before the entire process would have been for naught, all negotiators agreed on changes to regulatory items like regular and substantive interaction, state authorization, accreditation, TEACH grants, among others. The topics were split amongst three subcommittees to work on and provide recommendations to the full committee to consider. Many of the most controversial topics that the Department had proposed in their initial drafts were rejected. U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos applauded the efforts, “(r)ethinking 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.” Some critics seemed to think the changes might go too far, and open up items like accreditation and weaken safeguards on students. Others state that negotiators may have acted to enact the provisions reviewed and weighed in on by negotiators, as imperfect as they might be, to avoid the alternative outcome of allowing the Department to fully write the rules themselves, which would have occurred if consensus was not reached.

Even though consensus was reached, the regulations are not yet complete or going into effect. The Department now must publish the proposed regulations over the next few months, allow for a public comment period, review that feedback, and release their version of the final regulations by November 1st in accordance with the legislative calendar, to be sure that the regulations will have an effective start date of July 1, 2020. If the November deadline is missed, the earliest the regulations could go into effect would be July 1, 2121, which may see a new presidential administration, with changed priorities (thus starting the process over, once again). Ongoing Congressional discussions and actions on items like Higher Education Act reauthorization could also affect these regulations.

Department of Education Page on 2018-19 Negotiated Rulemaking

On March 21st, President Trump signed an executive order on “Improving Free Inquiry, Transparency, and Accountability on Campus” that directs federal agencies which provide funding for university research to be sure that they are funding colleges that support free speech on their campuses. This was an “historic action to defend American students and American values that have been under seige,” Mr. Trump said. It is still not clear how exactly the enforcement of this executive order may play out. Many believe that the executive order does little which other existing law already requires.

The White House released their vision of what reforms should be made to the Higher Education Act (HEA) during the reauthorization of it in Congress.  It’s proposals within mirror the budget it also proposed just one week prior. Some of the major retooling includes: changing accreditation process to focus on outcomes; a significant cut for some student aid programs, while consolidating others; adapting the Federal Work Study program to focus more on career-oriented jobs and less on campus-based work; streamlining loan repayment processes; allowing Pell Grants for incarcerated students, as well as short-term programs; providing students and the public data to include program-level earnings and outcomes data. Conversations at the congressional level are currently ongoing and both the Senate and the House education committees have begun hearings on HEA reauthorization.  


Click here to read the full White House proposal.

On Monday March 11th, the Trump administration released their budget proposal for the 2020 fiscal year. Included in the proposal is a $7.1 billion cut to the Department of Education, approximately equal to 10% of its total current operational budget. These proposals follow similar attempts in past budgets the administration has put forward. The cuts include reduction in funding for teacher preparation, National Institutes of Health, removal of the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program, and other research programs. The proposal also would allow for Pell Grants to be used on short-term credential programs. Since Congress has the ultimate budgetary authority, and with a divided House and Senate majority, movement on this budget will likely not make much headway. 

Briefs Authored by UPCEA, OLC, and WCET Cover Competency-Based Education, Financial Aid, Regular and Substantive Interaction, and State Authorization

WASHINGTON, DC – February 27, 2019 – Today, three organizations in higher education—UPCEA, OLC and WCET—have issued a set of policy briefs relating to necessary changes to federal regulations affecting the professional, continuing, and online education community. These papers address competency-based education, financial aid for the 21st century student, regular and substantive interaction, and state authorization.

The organizations have jointly issued these papers while talks relating to the ongoing rulemaking session are currently underway at the Department of Education to provide additional information to policymakers about the challenges that contemporary learners, and the institutions that serve them, often face. While many of these topics will likely be addressed by the current Department of Education negotiated rulemaking committee, the organizations recognize that others may require Congressional action.

Policymakers interested in a flourishing 21st century workforce must encourage policies that support a 21st century higher education system. Adult learners, and students who engage in online education, can be stifled by outdated policies set up to serve a student population that has not existed for more than 50 years. Through these briefs, the organizations aim to change the conversation around these out-of-date regulations, and together be a stronger voice for innovative and contemporary education policy.

“Higher education institutions provide innovative programs and accessibility to the new normal of adult learners, but antiquated national policies don’t necessarily facilitate greater access to postsecondary learning for today’s students,” said Robert Hansen, CEO of UPCEA. “We hope that these papers will help inform policymakers as we work to expand access and best serve our students.”

“Addressing the needs of the 21st-Century learner includes creating an environment that supports effective use of digital and online learning,” said Kathleen Ives, Executive Director and CEO of the Online Learning Consortium. “Our hope is that our input and our insights are thoughtfully considered as policymakers contemplate the necessary changes for realigning policy with the needs of modern higher education, while addressing inclusion, diversity, equity and access for every student pursuing higher learning.”

Michael Abbiatti, Executive Director of WCET “strongly supports a policy environment that enables and empowers all learner communities to access and receive quality curated digital content and associated credentials in an affordable manner. The current Federal negotiation process must focus on quality assurance in process, content delivery, credentialing, and financial management at all appropriate levels.”

The series of policy briefs is the result of the collaborative efforts of UPCEA, OLC, WCET, and leaders at the member institutions of each organization.

The briefs are structured to inform current talks, as well as inspire solutions around these topics outside of the current negotiated rulemaking session.

You may access the reports here.

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UPCEA is the leading association for professional, continuing, and online education. Founded in 1915, UPCEA now serves the leading public and private colleges and universities in North America. The association supports its members with innovative conferences and specialty seminars, research and benchmarking information, professional networking opportunities and timely publications. Based in Washington, D.C., UPCEA builds greater awareness of the vital link between adult learners and public policy issues. Learn more at upcea.edu.

About Online Learning Consortium
The Online Learning Consortium (OLC) is a collaborative community of higher education leaders and innovators, dedicated to advancing quality digital teaching and learning experiences designed to reach and engage the modern learner – anyone, anywhere, anytime. OLC inspires innovation and quality through an extensive set of resources, including, best-practice publications, quality benchmarking, leading-edge instruction, community-driven conferences, practitioner-based and empirical research and expert guidance. The growing OLC community includes faculty members, administrators, trainers, instructional designers, and other learning professionals, as well as educational institutions, professional societies and corporate enterprises. Visit http://onlinelearningconsortium.org for more information.

About WCET
WCET (the WICHE Cooperative for Educational Technologies) is the leader in the practice, policy, & advocacy of technology-enhanced learning in higher education. WCET is a national, member-driven, non-profit which brings together colleges, universities, higher education organizations, and companies to collectively improve the quality and reach of technology-enhanced learning programs. Learn more at wcet.wiche.edu

Beginning Tuesday January 15, following a day and a half of weather delay, the Department of Education initiated negotiated rulemaking sessions covering a considerable number of issues important to UPCEA and its membership. Meetings will continue through the months of February and conclude in March. Among the issues being discussed include, but is not limited to:

  • State authorization
  • Regular and substantive interaction
  • Definition of “credit hour”
  • Discussion of EQUIP-style programmatic delivery by third-party providers
  • Barriers to innovation
  • Direct assessment + competency-based programs
  • Faith based entities taking part in title IV/HEA programs

The department has decided to split this rulemaking session into one main committee regarding “Accreditation and Innovation”, and three topic-based subcommittees: the Distance Learning and Educational Innovation Subcommittee; the Faith-Based Entities Subcommittee; and the TEACH Grants Subcommittee. The Department has also aligned the rulemaking topics into three “buckets” which align with these subcommittees. The most consequential and in-depth bucket will fall to the Distance Learning and Educational Innovation subcommittee, as they are tasked with covering important and weighty items like state authorization, regular and substantive interaction, definitions of credit hour, and accreditation, among others. The Department has provided recommendations for how they would like to see the committee change these regulations, and those recommendations can be accessed below. UPCEA encourages our members to weigh in and follow these sessions and reach out to the negotiators (list found here) who represent your constituency group, and let them know your thoughts on these regulatory developments.
Main Negotiated Rulemaking Site from the Department. For more information and access to the live streams, click here.

Click here to access a list of the negotiators.

Materials handed out by the Department prior to the negotiated rulemaking session 1:

  • Agenda  MS Word 
  • Draft Protocols  MS Word 
  • 602 Accreditation  MS Word 
  • 654 Robert C Byrd Program  MS Word 
  • 668 Student Assistance General Provisions  MS Word
  • 686 TEACH Grant Program  MS Word 
  • Religious Inclusion in Title IV Grant Making  MS Word
  • Summary 600 Institutional Eligibility  MS Word 
  • Summary 602 Accreditation  MS Word 
  • Summary 654 Robert C Byrd Honors Scholarship Program  MS Word 
  • Summary 668 Student Assistance General Provisions  MS Word 
  • Summary 686 TEACH Grants  MS Word 
  • Summary Religious Inclusion  MS Word 
  • 600 Institutional Eligibility  MS Word 
  • Faith-Based Entities Subcommittee Overview  MS Word 
  • Faith-Based Entities Subcommittee Memorandum  PDF 
  • Faith-Based Entities Subcommittee Opinion


Full Schedule of Rulemaking Committee/Subcommittee Meetings:

Accreditation and Innovation (Main Committee)
Live streaming available on: edstream.ed.gov

Session 1: January 14-16, 2019

The U.S. Department of Education
Barnard Auditorium
400 Maryland Ave. SW
Washington, DC 20202

Session 2: February 19-22, 2019

The U.S. Department of Education
Potomac Center Plaza (UCP) Auditorium 
550 12th St. SW
Washington, DC 20202

Session 3: March 25-28, 2019

The U.S. Department of Education
Barnard Auditorium
400 Maryland Ave. SW
Washington, DC 20202

The Accreditation and Innovation Committee meetings are open to the public to attend in person. The committee meetings will also be made available to the public through a Department-provided livestream accessible from edstream.ed.gov.


Distance Learning and Educational Innovation Subcommittee

Session 1: January 17-18, 2019

Session 2: February 12-13, 2019

Session 3: March 11-12, 2019


TEACH Grants Subcommittee

Session 1: January 17-18, 2019

Session 2: February 12-13, 2019

Session 3: March 11-12, 2019


Faith-Based Entities Subcommittee

Session 1: January 17-18, 2019

Session 2: February 12-13, 2019

Session 3: March 11-12, 2019


The  Subcommittee meetings are not open to the public to attend in person. The subcommittee meetings will be made available to the public through a Department-provided livestream.

Higher education groups request exemption for Title IV student aid and international students

​UPCEA today joined over 150,000 groups and individuals submitting comments on the Trump administration’s proposal​ to overhaul how the government evaluates whether a would-be immigrant is “not likely to be a public charge”—that is, not likely to use public benefits such as food stamps or Medicaid, a requirement of many visa categories and green card applications.

The administration’s proposed new definition would require an extended investigation into an immigrant’s history and job prospects, and give wide-ranging discretion to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) to reject an immigrant’s application for admission or for an extension or change of status, as well as reject applications from non-immigrants such as international students seeking student visas.

At issue is how the government looks at public benefits an immigrant has already used or is likely to use. While only cash benefits are considered right now, the new approach would include Medicaid, SNAP (food stamps), Section 8 and other housing benefits, and Medicare Part D subsidies for low-income earners.

In comments submitted on behalf of UPCEA and 30 other higher education associations, ACE expressed concern over how the proposed change would impact American students with immigrant family members as well as international students, including graduate and professional students who upon graduation may become legally employed in the United States.

While the associations are “deeply troubled” that the scope of the definition will include programs like SNAP and Medicaid, their comments focused on Title IV federal student aid programs and international students on F-1 and J-1 visas.

“Under current law, federal student aid is only available to U.S. citizens or green card holders, with very few exceptions. Nevertheless, we have heard anecdotal reports of students who are U.S. citizens turning down financial aid packages because they are concerned that receiving educational assistance may adversely impact their non-U.S. citizen family members’ applications for admission or legal residency,” the groups wrote.

Although Title IV programs are not included in the definition, the associations are asking that they be specifically excluded to help curb a potential chilling effect on first-generation American college students.

On the international student and scholar issue, the groups believe the expansion of public charge to apply to non-immigrants, including F-1 students, J-1 exchange visitors, and H-1B specialty workers, will create further delays in visa processing and discourage international students and scholars from coming to the United States, exacerbating a downward trend in international student enrollment at American colleges and universities. They are also asking for F-1 and J-1 student and exchange visitors to be explicitly excluded.

To read the full letter, click here​.

​Shortly before the November election, word leaked that the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) was considering developing a definition of “sex” that would, in effect, maintain that an individual’s sex was determined at birth and was unchangeable.

In a letter​ last week, UPCEA, along with ACE and 27 other higher education associations, urged HHS not to pursue this process, arguing that such a definition is unnecessary and bound to cause fear and confusion, and would exclude the identities of numerous faculty, staff, and students already acknowledged by colleges and universities.

Among the associations’ primary concerns is that the approach HHS is contemplating could result in some individuals on campus being perceived as less equal and entitled to fewer rights and processes than their peers.

In particular, many institutions have chosen to embrace transgender and gender non-binary individuals and have tailored their policies in ways that go beyond their legal obligations but are unquestionably permissible under federal, state, and local laws.

“In the simplest terms, we believe that higher education and the students we educate are not served by a federal definition that limits or restricts the identity of an individual,” the groups wrote. “While all campuses differ in their specific approaches, it is important to recognize that they are best suited to determine how they serve their students, consistent with the law.”

Read the full letter.

Following their request for input on a wide-ranging set of topics to be placed into a single negotiated rulemaking session, the Department has formally announced their intent to hold sessions in January, February, and March related to these issues. The department has decided to split this rulemaking session into one main committee regarding “Accreditation and Innovation”, and three topic-based subcommittees: the Distance Learning and Educational Innovation Subcommittee; the Faith-Based Entities Subcommittee; and the TEACH Grants Subcommittee. Individuals are encouraged to submit their nominations for negotiators no later than November 15th to negregnominations@ed.gov.

Click here for more information.