On October 4, 2017, IHEP Director of Research and Policy Jamey Rorison, Ph.D., testified before the U.S. Department of Education's Regulatory Reform Task Force. The hearing was intended to solicit public input about the maintenance, modification or replacement of the agency's existing postsecondary education regulations. Dr. Rorison's oral testimony is below. Click to access IHEP's full written testimony.
"Good morning, members of the Regulatory Reform Task Force. Thank you for the opportunity to share comments and inform your evaluation of existing federal regulations.
"My name is Jamey Rorison, and I am Director of Research and Policy at the Institute for Higher Education Policy, or IHEP – a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization that promotes college access and success, especially for underserved students. Our team conducts high-quality research to address the challenges facing our postsecondary education system, and to inform federal, state, and institutional policymaking. My comments today focus on regulations impacting college students, programs, and institutions.
"At IHEP, we recognize the importance of assessing the efficacy of our existing federal regulations. While undertaking this assessment, IHEP urges the task force to maintain regulations that promote educational equity, protect students’ civil rights, and implement programs designed to serve students. By ensuring the proper delivery of need-based financial aid programs, providing data to inform consumer choice and policymaking, and protecting civil rights, federal regulations can foster student success. A number of regulations under the Higher Education Act, Civil Rights Act, Title IX, and other federal legislation are in place to accomplish these goals. Eliminating these regulations is tantamount to turning our backs on students.
"The Department must maintain regulations that administer essential Title IV financial aid programs for needy, hard-working students pursuing a college credential. These aid programs include the Federal Pell Grant, Federal Supplemental Opportunity Grant (or SEOG), and Federal Work Study programs, which serve students who would otherwise be unable to afford college. Work Study, SEOG, and Pell are written into statute, so while eliminating their associated regulations would not eliminate the programs themselves, it could make compliance more difficult for the Department and for institutions, and could prevent many low-income students from accessing and persisting in college.
"We also urge the Department to maintain regulations that promote the collection and use of high-quality postsecondary data. IHEP leads the Postsecondary Data Collaborative, a broad collection of organizations – representing institutions, students, states, employers, and privacy and security experts – all committed to the use of high-quality data to improve student success and close equity gaps.
"Students, policymakers, and institutions deserve to know which colleges and universities serve students well, and which do not. Through required reporting to IPEDS for institutions participating in Title IV federal aid programs, the Department helps to cast light on student enrollment, retention, completion, and transfer-out rates, financial aid information, and cost of attendance. Critically, graduation rates must continue to be disaggregated by race, gender, and economic status.
"We urge the Department to also maintain data reporting requirements mandated by the Civil Rights Act and Title IX, as well as regulations requiring institutions to calculate cohort default rates and to disclose debt and earnings information for programs at public, nonprofit, and for-profit colleges that prepare students for gainful employment. Students need the data provided through the Gainful Employment rule to help them make informed choices about the potential return on their investment. The Department must also maintain current regulations that protect student privacy and outline parameters for acceptable data use.
"The Department has a series of existing regulations that prohibit discrimination based on sex and age in programs or activities receiving federal financial assistance, as well as regulations that help the Department and colleges and universities comply with the Civil Rights Act. Please commit to protecting students’ civil rights by maintaining these regulations.
"Not all regulations should remain intact. Some impede postsecondary student success. Right now, individuals who have been incarcerated in federal or state prisons are ineligible to receive Pell Grants, and individuals who have been convicted for the sale or possession of illegal drugs are prohibited from participating in any federal student aid programs. These laws – and their regulations – undermine students’ economic security and job prospects, and they diminish re-entry outcomes upon release, despite clear evidence that recidivism rates drop significantly for individuals who earn postsecondary credentials while incarcerated. We urge the Department to work with Congress to overturn these laws, then rescind their accompanying regulations.
"As the Department’s task force undertakes its next steps, please consider how existing regulations foster success along the postsecondary continuum, beginning with the information made available to aspiring students, continuing through their enrollment, completion, and finally their transition into the workforce. Many of the regulations I’ve addressed this morning ensure that our higher education system works for all Americans, regardless of race, sex, or economic status. These regulations also work to eliminate longstanding equity gaps. Conversely, some regulations hinder progress for underserved members of our society, and should be eliminated after working with Congress to amend their underlying legislation. Ask yourselves what’s best for students, and keep those answers front and center.
"The IHEP team welcomes the opportunity to serve as an ongoing resource to the Department.