Secretary DeVos Proposes Expanded Access to TEACH Grants, Religious Liberty Protections for Faith-Based Institutions

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Secretary DeVos Proposes Expanded Access to TEACH Grants, Religious Liberty Protections for Faith-Based Institutions

December 10, 2019

WASHINGTON—U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos proposed a new rule, open for public comment today, that would expand access to Teacher Education Assistance for College Higher Education (TEACH) Grants and ensure religious liberty is protected for faith-based higher education institutions and their students. The proposed regulations are the result of historic consensus the Department reached during negotiated rulemaking earlier this year. 

Secretary DeVos said regarding the proposed TEACH Grants update, "This proposed rule ensures educators who received TEACH Grants and who are meeting their service requirements do not have their grants converted to loans improperly or as a result of confusing bureaucratic paperwork. This new rule also recognizes, for the first time, the vital contributions of elementary school educators, whose service was not included in earlier TEACH Grant regulations."

The proposed regulations on TEACH Grants include important changes that will eliminate burdensome certification and annual reporting requirements, eliminate the possibility that a missed paperwork deadline will result in thousands of dollars in student loan debt for a teacher, and create opportunities and processes for resolving grants that were incorrectly converted to loans. These proposed regulations also expand access to TEACH Grants to elementary school educators who teach in high-need areas.

The proposed regulations also respond to the Supreme Court ruling in Trinity Lutheran Church of Columbia, Inc. v. Comer[1] to ensure that individuals and institutions are not forced to choose between upholding their deeply-held faith or participating in federal funding programs. 

"Faith-based institutions should not have to worry about losing access to federal programs due to their faith," said Secretary DeVos. "These new rules will ensure a level playing field and will guarantee that individuals and institutions can continue to practice their faith and adhere to their values without losing the federal funding opportunities otherwise available to others."

The proposed regulations make it clear that the Department cannot discriminate against otherwise eligible students and faith-based entities by disqualifying them from Title IV, Higher Education Act (HEA) programs solely because of their religious beliefs or status. The proposed revisions guard against such discrimination and make clear that Title IV, HEA programs remain available to all eligible entities and students regardless of their religious status or beliefs.

The Department intends to publish final regulations by no later than November 1, 2020, so that they will be effective July 1, 2021.

[1] 137 S. Ct. 2012 (2017).