Editor’s note: This weekly update from the government relations office at the American Association of Community Colleges (AACC) provides the latest on what’s happening in Washington and how AACC is advancing policies to support community colleges and students. Send questions, feedback and more to: firstname.lastname@example.org.
- New Negotiated Rulemaking tables to convene in early 2024
- House Subcommittee hearing on overtime rule
- Continued attention on Title VI protections
This week, the Department of Education (ED) announced they will convene negotiated rulemaking tables on Title IV program integrity and institutional quality issues in early 2024. The rulemaking sessions, taking place on January 8-11, February 5-8, and March 4-7, will cover various topics, including:
- Federal recognition of accrediting agencies and related issues;
- Institutional eligibility, including state authorization;
- The definition of distance education as it pertains to clock hour programs and reporting for students who enroll primarily online;
- Return of Title IV funds (the funds that must be returned to the government when a student does not complete an enrollment period); and
- Cash management, to address timely student access to financial aid disbursements.
A subcommittee will be convened to consider participant eligibility requirements for Federal TRIO programs.
The topics for the rulemaking session were initially announced in April 2023. AACC provided written comments to inform the issue papers to be considered by negotiators, alongside oral comments provided by AACC’s Senior Vice President for Government Relations, David Baime, during the public hearings. Third Party Servicers was originally a proposed topic for this rulemaking session, but ED has indicated that they will revisit it for a later rulemaking and will instead issue new guidance in early 2024.
The Department is currently soliciting nominations for negotiators for the key constituent groups, including public two-year colleges. Nominations are due by December 13.
On Wednesday, the House Committee on Education and the Workforce’s Subcommittee on Workforce Protections hosted a hearing entitled “Bad for Business: DOL’s Proposed Overtime Rule.” The hearing featured remarks from Subcommittee Chair Kevin Kiley (R-CA) and witness testimony from employment lawyers, small business owners, and policy advocates. The hearing focused on the Department of Labor’s (DOL) proposed increase in the salary level below which employees may not be considered “exempt” under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). The salary threshold would increase from $35,568 to at least $55,068 under the new rules, depending on when they go into effect – a nearly 55 percent hike. Chair Kiley expressed his concerns that the new rule would threaten small businesses and reduce employment opportunities for workers. Members and witnesses also raised concerns about the expedited 60-day comment period.
The proposed rule would have an enormous impact on many community colleges’ staffing and budgets. AACC filed comments highlighting the significant challenges associated with implementing this rule and encouraged member colleges to share potential impacts.
On December 5, the full House Committee will hold a hearing entitled “Holding Campus Leaders Accountable and Confronting Antisemitism.” The witness list includes the presidents of Harvard University, the University of Pennsylvania, and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and will focus on college leaders’ role in combatting antisemitism on campuses.
This hearing follows a Higher Education and Workforce Development Subcommittee hearing that covered colleges’ role in ensuring Tile VI protections for Jewish students. As a reminder, Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits discrimination based on race, color, and national origin, including shared ancestry and ethnic characteristics.
In November, the Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights (OCR) issued a Dear Colleague Letter reminding schools of their obligations under Title VI and released a list of higher education institutions under investigation for Title VI violations.