Secretary DeVos Advances Higher Education Reform Forged by Historic Consensus

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Secretary DeVos Advances Higher Education Reform Forged by Historic Consensus

Comprehensive rewrite of federal regulations which seek to promote innovation, protect students, and reduce regulatory burden, are now open for public comment
June 11, 2019

WASHINGTON—As part of U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos' Rethink School agenda, the U.S. Department of Education today announced the publication of proposed regulations designed to reduce the unnecessary regulatory burden associated with accreditor oversight of the nation's colleges and universities and to streamline state authorization requirements for distance education or correspondence courses.

These changes, which were developed by consensus from a diverse negotiated rulemaking panel earlier this year, are designed to promote innovation, protect students while ensuring they have access to the higher education options that meet their unique needs, and reduce irrelevant and overburdensome regulations on higher education institutions.

"Reaching consensus on accreditation reform shows that, despite the naysayers, we can work together to rethink higher education, protect students through meaningful accountability, support innovative and diverse educational options, and allow colleges and universities to be more responsive to students' educational needs and career aspirations," said Secretary DeVos.

"With these reforms, our nation's colleges and universities can spend more time and effort on serving students and less time, energy, and money focused on bureaucratic compliance. At the Department, we will ensure that accreditation demonstrates a college or university is effectively serving students in accordance with its unique mission, including religious mission, rather than that it has simply filled out enough paperwork."

The consensus language also simplifies state authorization requirements for distance education and correspondence courses offered by schools, allowing colleges and universities to focus their resources on their students rather than hard-to-understand regulatory requirements and costly state fees.

The Department's proposed regulations would provide students with more options to take classes that prepare them for lifelong learning, as well as a career. For example:

  • Students enrolled in programs that lead to occupational licensure—whether enrolled online or in ground-based programs—would know whether the program satisfies the requirements of various states.
  • Students would be put first and given more options to complete their degree when a college or university closes.
  • Students, especially those from disadvantaged backgrounds, would have greater opportunities, as the proposed rules discourage entrenched interests from trying to close doors to careers through credential inflation.

The public will now have an opportunity to weigh in on the proposed regulations, which the Department plans to finalize this fall. The 30-day period for public comment will begin when the regulations are officially published in the Federal Register this week. To view the proposed rule in its entirety, click here.

The Department will also soon publish proposed rules that capture the consensus agreements on topics related to distance education and innovation, as well as TEACH grants and faith-based institutions.