Chris Murray – Online Education in the Upcoming Reauthorization of the Higher Education Act

Chris Murray – Online Education in the Upcoming Reauthorization of the Higher Education Act


– Thank you Chris Murray
for coming to visit us and to talk with us about
the Higher Education Act. I want to introduce you all to Chris. He’s a founding partner
of Thompson Coburn’s Lobbying and Policy group. His practice focuses on the political and regulatory issues
affecting the education sector. He has extensive experience
representing institutions, associations, and companies
related to e-learning, Title 4 program compliance,
medical education, federal workforce and
military education programs, education technology, education
trade, and accreditation. Chris is a frequent speaker
and author on various education policy topics, most
often on the intersection of technology and education. So I’m just very thrilled that you came. That there was no snow
storm that prevented any of our speakers from getting here. You’re from Washington. And thank you very much for
coming, everybody, Chris Miller. – Thank you–
– [Woman] Chris Murray. (applause) – Thank you so much, Alex,
for inviting me here. And thank you everybody for having me. Can you hear me, or is
that a little bit weird? Is there a little bit
of weirdness on the… OK, good, OK. There’s a little feedback up here. This is not a strange place for me to be. I grew up in Rockland County, in a little town called Piermont. I swam a lot at Rockland
Community College. I heard that mentioned earlier. I grew up in a family of swimmers, so we came upstate all the time. I remember, I woke up this
morning and the first thing I thought of is begging
my dad to go to Denny’s outside the Holiday Inn we
used to stay at in Syracuse. So this is a very comfortable
place for me to be. The only problem with
being in Syracuse today is the Congress is trying to, or
the House of Representatives is trying to pass their version of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, which is their update to No
Child Left Behind, today. I was watching C-SPAN late last night and sending a lot of text
messages to my staff. Asking about questions on amendments and processes, and why this
person’s doing this and that. So it’s been an exciting
and fun time in DC. But the reason why I’m
here today is to frame the federal, congressional side of policy. Specifically the Higher Education Act. So I’m gonna break my talk
down into three parts. The first part is a
brief history of the HEA. I’m gonna go through how we got to the HEA in our history. And then move over to what
the process looks like to pass the HEA. I don’t want to provide too
much of a civics lesson, as I’ll say later. But I do want to actually get
you familiar with the process, so you know, when you read news clips, what exactly what means. And then finally, I’ll
get into the players, which probably matters the most. Because it’s the legislators
that actually pass this law. And whether they’re motivated
to do so or not motivated to do so will really drive
the entire conversation. They will be the ones who put
the provisions into the law. And that’s really what
impacts all of us the most. So… So in summary, I’ll be getting
to why the HEA’s important, how it gets passed, and
who will be passing it. So I’m gonna start with
kind of the history of higher ed policy
from the federal level. Which I personally find
really interesting. So the HEA authorizes a broad array of federal student aid programs. HEA programs help students
and their families pay for, or finance, the cost
of post-secondary education. And HEA programs also provide direct aid to institutions of higher ed. So it’s not just to students,
it’s also to institutions. So going back before
the original 1965 HEA, the federal government
still played a major role in higher education policy than most… A more major role in
higher education policy than most people realize. Land-grant institutions were
founded in the 19th century with the Morrill Acts. Which was of course very
relevant for New York. And they were first signed
into law by President Lincoln. The first Federal Bureau of Education was actually founded in 1868. In the 20th century,
the federal government moved away from providing
aid in the form of land to providing different
types of opportunities. The next really big
hallmark moment was in 1994 when President FDR signed the GI Bill. Which resulted in a tremendous increase in higher ed enrollment. It was nearly a 100% increase,
as a result of the GI BIll, in higher ed enrollment in years
after the second World War. I mean, that is unbelievable. But, however, that growth and opportunity was limited largely to white men, while obstacles persisted
for women and minorities for many decades to come. In 1946, President Truman
convened what was called the Truman Convention to analyze the role of the educational
system in the transistion out of the second World War. For policy dorks like me, this is a very, very
interesting political panel. Eleanor Roosevelt was on it,
it got very, very heated. Often times it looked like
it was gonna break up. But… And you know, issues like college access and segregation, and
whether women and minorities should even be going to
college in the first place were part of this. I mean, this was a big, big moment in the history of higher ed. The final report was issued in 1947. And it proposed generous
financial aid to students who academically qualified
to benefit from college. At the time, Congress didn’t
act on the Truman Commission. But many of the pieces of
the Truman Commission Report in 1947 would be the foundations, and would essentially be the predicate for the Higher Ed Act
almost 20 years later. In 1958, in an effort to promote attainment in math,
science, and foreign language, that might help the US win the Cold War, fields that of course are
relevant here again in 2012, President Eisenhower signed into law the National Defense Education Act. A key element of that law was the program that would later be the
Perkins Loan Program, and other programs that made their way into the HEA, like some of
the federal TRIO Programs that you might be aware of, like work-study and Upward Bound, actually pre-dated the original 1965 HEA. President Johnson signed
the Higher Education Act into law on November 8, 1965. In Texas, at his Alma Mater, what was then Southwest Texas State College, but is now Texas State University. He signed it actually at
the desk that he worked at, when he was a janitor at that institution. And that’s how he paid
his way through college. So November ’65, we’re in February, the end of February 2015. So we’re just about 50 years away from the original Higher
Education Act anniversary. The president had taken a personal role in the shaping and passage of the HEA. He signed the bill at that same desk. Which, to me, was such a momentous and monumental occasion. That, you know, he came
back to the same place that he had struggled to finish college. And, you know, we have so many presidents through our history that
went to Harvard and Yale. And, you know, LBJ
certainly had his problems as president, but I think
that’s a pretty remarkable statement that he went
back to his state college, and took the pride in signing
that law at that time. So the HEA was one of centerpieces of his Great Society agenda. It’s goal was to take away cost as barrier to educational attainment. The HEA accomplished
this by greatly expanding the federal role in
financing higher education. The HEA also included
outreach programs designed to help the most economically
disadvantaged students. So perhaps the biggest
controversy on Capitol Hill in the 1960’s, in the
negotiations in the original HEA, was whether the bill
should include tax credits. Which were favored by Republicans. Or grants, which were
favored by Democrats. Eventually Democrats got the grant program that they wanted, but as a
compromise, the Republicans settled for the Guaranteed
Student Loan Program. Title 4 is the most
ambitious section of the HEA. It was then, and I would
argue, is still now. It provides financial students for… Financial assistance for
students in higher education through need grade based
grants, students loans, Work-Study Program, and
other campus based aid. In its present for, the HEA is
organized into eight titles. Most importantly, Title
1 is general provisions. Title 2, 3, and 5 are aid to
support institutions directly. And as mentioned, Title 4 is
student federal financial aid. Since it’s its elevation in 1980 to a cabinet level department,
the US Department of Ed administers HEA programs. The Department of
(mumbles) gets regulations to implement the HEA,
as I’m sure you are all very, very well aware. And takes various actions
to enforce the HEA. Congress frequently amends
and extends the HEA. Most often known as HEA re-authorizations. The HEA requires periodic
renewal, or else it expires. So, it will actually be
expiring later this year. So Congress must either
act to re-authorize the law or extend it for a period
of time while Congress does its work on re-authorizing the law. These re-authorizations
sometimes result in very minor changes to the law. And sometimes are very,
very major changes. Such as the one that
included the Pell Grant for the first time. So I’m gonna go through a
quick summary of the HEA re-authorizations in the
past, to let you know kind of how we got to where we are now. In ’68 the first
re-authorization occurred. It was just three years after the 1965 original authorization. It solidified and expanded the
federal student aid programs. And the TRIO Programs were formally codified into law that year. In 1972, President Nixon signed
the re-authorization into law that created the Basic
Educational Opportunity Grant, which would later be named the Pell Grant, after Senator Claiborne
Pell of Rhode Island. This 1972 legislation
took a giant step forward in reducing the cost
for low income students. And opened the doorway
to millions and millions of students into college. The 1976 re-authorization
was not very important compared to the ’72. It did not make very many
significant changes in the overall structure of the
Federal Student Aid Programs. And the changes then primarily related to needs requirements, you know, how many middle income
students could access aid, how many high income
students could access aid. In 1980 the Congress wrote
the ’80 re-authorization in the midst of a recession
and rising student aid costs. In that environment, similar
to the one we have now, Congress instead chose to
focus on tweaks to the law that could rein in cost. Congress did add a new program in 1980, the Parent Plus Program. Which is designed to address the concern that HEA programs had
pushed too much of the cost of higher education to students. So it brought parents
into the equation as well. And obviously that has
been something that’s been a big deal, regulatorily, from
the department’s perspective for the last few years. The lead up to ’86
re-authorization was characterized by political gridlock,
which should seem familiar to all of us. But the final result was
a law that accomplished two starkly different objectives. It restricted access to loan programs to limit overall program
cost, but it also allowed more students to access
more money than ever. ’92 was one of the
biggest re-authorizations in the history of the law,
probably the most important to this community and anyone
involved in e-learning. So there were three
kind of watershed issues that happened then. The first was, with grants
failing to keep pace with college costs. Students had become increasingly dependent on student loans. So middle and high income
students could now access Stafford Loans, minus
the in-school subsidy. Second, Congress created
the Direct Loan Program. Which effectively inserted
the Department of Education as a bank in the lending system
to lend directly to students alongside the private
student loan companies that were operating the
Stafford Loan program. And third, and as I alluded to, most important to this community, the ’92 re-authorization
allowed Title 4 funds for distance learning for the first time. Senator Kennedy, who was
chairman of the HELP Committee at the time, was skeptical
of distance learning. And he imposed a 50% cap on the number of e-learning programs that
an institution could operate, known as the Fifty Percent Rule. The Fifty Percent Rule
restricted access to institutions that either enrolled less
than 50% of its students, or offered less than half of its courses via distance learning. That was obviously a
very important moment. A little bit of history there. My colleague, Ken Salomon,
who has been doing higher education law and
lobbying for many, many decades, worked on that, was actually
the person who led the charge in the ’92 re-authorization
to allow distance education students access to Title
4 for the first time. What’s really interesting
is that, at that moment, the entity that paid for
that lobbying project was Liberty University and Jerry Falwell. Which most people don’t
know, and we should all be very thankful for Jerry Falwell. It’s pretty incredible
because he had gotten into a federal student aid
liability issue, because they had started one of the first
distance education programs. And the department came
calling in the early ’90’s, saying pay back millions
and millions of dollars in student loans. So they got a temporary reprieve through the appropriations process,
and through a lobbying effort, Ken and our colleagues were
able to get Title 4 aid specifically written into law
for distance learning students for the first time. And Ken always talks about,
you know, at the time, he would call, you know,
Harvard, and SUNY, and UPenn to try to get them on
board with this project. And he would say, “Hey, you
know, my name is Ken Salomon. You might remember me from our old firm, Dow Lohnes, now Thompson Coburn. I represent Jerry Falwell,
please don’t hang up.” (laughter) But they clearly did
their job because they opened the pathway for
institutions and students for the last 22 years. And for the indefinite future. The ’98 re-authorization,
which was six years after ’92 obviously, made
scores of relatively minor changes to already
existing Title 4 programs. But there was really important aspect of the ’94 re-authorization
for, again, for this community, which was the Distance
Education Demonstration Program. Which is a demonstration
program that gave lift to non-profit institutions
that wanted to enter into distance learning. That was really what got
Western Governors its start and it’s lift, so that
was a monumental program that was relatively tiny at the time, but had a huge long-term impact. The longest intervening period
between HEA re-authorizations was between ’98 and 2008. During this period,
authorization for HEA programs were incrementally extended by Congress. Usually by year
re-authorizations at a time. The HEOA, as it was last called, the Higher Education Opportunity Act, was a lot like its predecessor. It made lot of small tweaks, but didn’t make any kind of large scale, huge changes to the Higher Education Act. Congress also sometimes
makes big changes to the HEA and higher ed programs outside
of the Higher Education Act. Although it almost always does happen inside the Higher Education Act. The 2006 extension of the HEA, so that law that extended it for an
incremental period of time, repealed that Fifty Percent
Rule that Senator Kennedy was so adamant about putting
in the ’92 re-authorization of the Higher Education Act. So that was really the
culmination of probably a decade and a half of work
to show that, you know, on-line being done by non-profits, it’s good work, and that
cap should be lifted. Another example of large scale change outside re-authorization was the Tax Payer Relief Act of 1997. That law added tax credits to the HEA in the form of the Hope and
Lifetime Learning Scholarship. The Hope and Lifetime Learning Credits. Republicans had been arguing
in favor of tax credits for decades, back to the
original HEA of 1965. Major changes are also made outside of the authorization process,
that I’ll get into in a minute, via what’s called a budget
reconciliation member. Sorry, budget reconciliation “measure”. The budget reconciliation
process is excruciatingly arcane. You don’t want to know about it. I’ll spare you the details. But it essentially allows
a certain type of bill to avoid the filibuster in the Senate, so it only needs 50 votes to pass. So you might remember in… In the wake of Obama Care, what the House and Senate did were, they passed their versions of the law. But then there was a subsequent law after Scott Brown came in
and won the special election to replace Ted Kennedy in Massachusetts. And that reduced the
Democrats’ number in the Senate from 60 to 59, so that they no longer had that filibuster-proof majority. So the Democrats needed
to pass that fixes bill to actually get Obama Care
across the finish line. And that was done by a budget
reconciliation measure. And tucked in that budget
reconciliation measure, that was really about Obama Care, was a piece of legislation called SAFRA. Which eliminated the Stafford Loan Program in favor of the Direct Loan Program. Which just goes to show you
there are different measures that can have huge impacts on the higher ed system at large,
that are just not in the HEA. So I’m gonna conclude our
little history of the HEA here with some takeaways. So all the essential
components of the HEA started the the ’65 HEA, and live on today. But what’s really amazing
is that the conversation doesn’t seemed to have
moved forward very much on Capitol Hill over the last 50 years. We’re debating the same
issues over and over again. And will probably debate
very similar issues this time around. So what are those issues? Whether to provide grants,
loans, or tax credits. How much aid to provide middle
and high income students. The deepening direct involvement
of the federal government. And finally, the growth and number… Growth and number of the HEA programs and their related costs. Most notably Pell, which in last year, in the last few years,
it’s seen a big explosion in its overall cost. OK, so now I’m going to turn
to the legislative process. And as I said before, I don’t want this to be a civics lesson. We’ll get through it as quickly as I can. I just want to make sure,
when you read news clips about what this senator did,
or what that senator did, you have better framing of
where we are in the process. So there are two kind of threshold aspects to what Congress does. Congress appropriates, and it authorizes. Authorization is when Congress
passes a particular law. So the HEA is an authorization done by authorizing committees. Appropriations occur
when Congress determines how much money to spend
on a particular law. So for example, Congress in… The authorizing committees
of Congress can say, “The Pell grant should
be $6,000 per student.” The appropriators can then
say, “We don’t really care. It can be $12,000 a student or
it can be $4,000 a student.” So the appropriators determine
how much money to spend on those authorization programs. But very often, it doesn’t match up with what the authorization actually says. Appropriation should happen every year. Unlike authorizations, which
happen more periodically. Like the HEA. But we’ve had a very
dysfunctional Congress, as everybody knows. The regular order process
of appropriations has been broken down for many, many years. Actually, we have most
staff on Capitol Hill now are so young they’ve never been through a regular order appropriations process. Which is very sad to me. And what we do now are
lots of (mumbles) measures to fund parts of the government
for this period of time or that period of time
without actually going through the deliberative process of deciding, “OK, how much money should we be spending on education programs alone? What money should we be spending that on? Let’s deliberate it and pass it.” No, it turns out to be in
the dead of night, up to a deadline with the shutdown
of the government looming. Or the government actually shut down. You know, let’s horse trade everything and throw everything
into a last minute law. That’s not good politics,
it’s not good policy. And I hope we move back
towards regular order sometime soon. So the Ed Workforce and
Help Committees are the… Ed Workforce Committee in the House, and HELP Committee in the Senate, are the authorizing
committees in Congress. And the appropriations
committees are driven by the education sub-committees on the appropriations committees. So now that I’ve kind of
bored you with the difference between appropriations and authorization, I’m gonna just get into
little bit of the process of how a law like the HEA
moves through committees, and then into passage, and
finally, signage into… Signed into law by the president. So what happens is the
House and the Senate tend to pass their own versions of the bill. So the House Ed Workforce
Committtee will have a series of hearings, they
will float their bill. they will amend it in
committee, they will amend it on the House floor, and
then pass that bill. And then the Senate
will do the same thing. They will… They will have a draft bill,
they amend it in the committee, amend it on the Senate floor, and then pass that bill. Well, then you have two
separate bills that need to somehow be reconciled. And although this doesn’t always happen, it’s very typical for HEA, for there to be a conference committee. Which is the body that
reconciles the two bills. So the conference committee has conferees. So those are legislators appointed by the leadership of House and the Senate. And those are usually policy
experts within the ranks of the representatives and senators. So an example is, you
know, the Republicans control the House, and
John Kline is the chair of the Ed Workforce Committee. The sub-committee chair
on higher education is a representative named
Virginia Foxx, of North Carolina. Representative Foxx has a PhD. She is a former college president. And obviously has a very
kind of deep knowledge of our sector. So she’s the type of person… I don’t have any intelligence of this, I don’t know this for a fact, but she’s the type of
person you would expect to be appointed as a conferee. Because she really does
know the lay of the land in higher education. So then what the conferees do is, the leadership appoints
them, proportionally, roughly, so that whatever
party has control is the one that has the most votes. So it would now be Republicans in both the House and the Senate. They go into a conference,
they essentially lock them in a conference room for weeks. And they debate, “This
provision is in the House bill. This provision is in the Senate bill. How do we marry the two? How do we pick what goes
into the final law?” That then gets passed
and that then gets sent to the president for his signature. So there’s several steps
in the process obviously. There’s the committee
process, the floor process, the conference committee process. All are important parts
of HEA re-authorization. But to me, probably the most
important part, is the part that gets it across the
finish line right at the end: The conference committee process. And these are all
opportunities for you to go in and talk to your legislators,
if there’s something that comes in at any particular
point that really concerns you. So my last section here are the players. So who are the decision makers? Why is the HEA moving now? And what should we expect
in the re-authorization? So in the House, longtime congressmen John Kline of Minnesota is chairman of the Education in the
Workforce Committee. He received a waver to have one more term as chair of that committee. Some parties, it works in different ways, have term limits on how
long you can be chair in the House and the Senate. So her received that waver,
I think in large part because of leadership
recognizing the fact that, you know, he’s been around awhile. He knows the lay of the land. And a lot can happen in this Congress. He’s a pragmatist, he’s
a well known friend of the For Profit Sector,
and he has a very, kind of, long tenured, experienced staff who have been with him for a long time. The ranking member, which is
the term for the senior-most person in the Party that’s out of power. So that’s the Democrats in
both the House and the Senate. The ranking member on Ed Workforce is Bobby Scott of Virginia. He somewhat unexpectedly
became ranking member. Several of the members
above him in seniority retired late last year, a
couple of them unexpectedly. So he kind of came into that
position surreptitiously. He’s learning the rules of the road. He’s been on the committee a long time and knows a lot about higher education. But, you know, he’s still staffing up and getting his feet wet as, you know, as the lead Democrat on the committee. That’s a big role and an important role. He, himself, has been a pretty
vocal critic of certain parts of the regulatory process
of the Department of Ed. Particularly gainful employment. So as I alluded to before,
Congress is working at breakneck speed, on
education legislation this year. First up is the Elementary
and Secondary Education Act. Which is under consideration,
as I mentioned, today. It’s gonna be passing the
House, they’re whipping right now and hoping
to pass the bill today. The law is pretty far right. I guess the Republicans’
leadership might lose some of the far, far right folks because
it’s not far right enough. I’m sure that’s familiar to
anybody who watches the news or reads the New York Times
or the Washington Post. And yesterday there was
a long amendment process on the floor, where
amendments were offered by both Republicans and
Democrats to improve the bill. So that’s up first. The next step would be the Senate on ESEA. ESEA is the, as I mentioned,
the K-12 law, but it was most recently known as No
Child Left Behind in 2002. The next stop is the Senate. It’s going to be a very
different process in the Senate. Lamar Alexander is the chairman of the Senate HELP Committee. He’s a new chairman. He just came into this role. He is, I would argue, the most experienced person when it comes to higher education
policy in the US Congress. He was the US Secretary of Education. He was the president of the
University of Tennessee system. He really knows education, soup to nuts. I had breakfast with him
just yesterday morning. I mean, it is amazing
when you sit with him, and what a commanding presence he has. And what a commanding understanding of what the issues are. There’s no kind of educating and trying to wade into the waters. He knows your issue, just
like that, from the beginning. So Lamar Alexander’s the chair. The new ranking member on that committee is Senator Patty Murray of Washington. She is an incredibly hard worker. She’s a great legislator. Her leadership in the Senate
has frequently turned to her as the person to solve big problems. She was the co-chair
of the supercommittee. She, you might recall,
was the person that worked directly with Paul Ryan. Kind of famously struck
up a friendship with him and struck a budget deal two years ago. So she is a legislator’s
legislator, who really takes that part of her job seriously. As does Lamar Alexander. So you have a little bit
of a shift there as well. Tom Harkin was the chair
for the last several years for the Democrats. He spent a lot of time going
after the For Profit Sector. And for better or worse,
he didn’t do a whole lot of legislating in our area. He did… There were a lot of hearings,
and there was a lot of press, but there wasn’t a lot of
actual legislation happening. And that has very much shifted. On ESEA, and I know I
keep on talking about it, but it’s important as a predicate for what will happen in HEA. Lamar Alexander has been going around and meeting with Senate Democrats who are on the HELP Committee. And having long meetings with them saying, “Please stay with the process. There will be an open amendment process when we mark up the bill
in the HELP Committee. There will be an open amendment
process on the Senate floor. You will get to be heard,
I want a bipartisan bill.” So the House bill is
fairly, you know, far right. Lamar Alexander is trying
to do everything he can to work directly with
Senator Murray and try to keep everybody together,
so that a good bill comes out of the HELP Committee. Because he’s aware that the
bill that passes the House is unlikely to be signed by the president. And also, you know, Lamar Alexander is
definitely a Republican. And he’s definitely a
conservative Republican. But he’s also kind of
an old school senator. He very much believes in
the amendment process, and working across the aisle,
and working with friends in the way that the kind
of Senate should work. And the way that it used to work. I learned something really
interesting recently that really shocked me. When No Child Left Behind
passed the Senate in 2002, it was debated for six weeks
on the floor of the US Senate. Which was the second longest
debate in the history of the US Senate, after
the Civil Rights Act. Which is, to me, astonishing. I don’t think it’s gonna
be six weeks this time. But you should really be
paying attention, in the news, when you’re hearing about
K-12 law as it’s taking shape. Because if that process breaks down, I would also expect the HEA
process to later break down. But like I said, Lamar
Alexander is kind of clutching to everything he can to get this through. And so, why would he do that? Why would he care so much? Why would John Kline ask
for and receive the waver? So these politicians know their politics. And 2016 is going to be a
better year for Democrats for several reasons. Democrats do better in
presidential elections because of the demographics
of the United States. But also, there are
more Democrats up for… There are more Republicans
up for re-election. And it’s a better Senate in
that for Democrats in 2016 than it’s been for many years. So it is entirely feasible
that the Democrats retake the Senate in 2016. So Lamar Alexander might only have two years as HELP chairman. And so for someone who’s
kind of at that later stage of his career, he’s not
at the end of his career, it is a later stage of his career, who has, you know, had all
of these illustrious jobs, for him to finally get to be chairman of the Senate HELP Committee and then squander the
opportunity of passing the monumental pieces
of legislation in K-12 and higher ed, would be an
entirely lost opportunity on his part. He has not told me this. I have not read this in reports. I am surmising this from,
you know, his deep passion and commitment to education. And just looking at the schedule
that seems to be breakneck at this moment, trying
to get both of these laws passed through this year. So I’ve gone on and on. I’d like to open the floor to
some questions that you might have about how the politics
and process are working. What to expect, particularly
for on-line learning. But really, anything that
interests you in different aspects of HEA re-authorization,
Congress, the federal government. – I think it’s fairly easy
to feel disenfranchised now, as a voter these days. I’m curious what advice
you have in order to take an advocacy position
with a local representative. Or to somehow or the other be influential as a very small voice. – Yeah, you know, I… That’s an aspect of the
process that I don’t feel quite as skeptical about,
because at the end of the day, these folks who are in
Congress still have to go and get elected every two or six years. And I think a big part
of the problem is often folks not realizing that
their members really do want to hear from them. So if there’s a Town
Hall in your district, if there is an opportunity
for you to be in Washington and just, you know, go in and
see your member of Congress or their staff, they very
much want to hear from you. Something happened about a
year ago that astounded me. And I’m not going to mention
the institution’s name. It was a prominent Research 1 Institution, and with a large e-learning operation. And as a favor, we took them in to see their representatives, their representative and their senators. They had been doing this
on-line operation for years. None of the staff, and neither of the… None of the elected officials knew that they had any on-line programs. I mean, the fact that that
message had not broken through to them at all, whether,
you know, someone just shook their hand at an event and said, “Hey, I work for Open SUNY,”
or “I work at this institution, and I’m the dean of on-line learning.” Or, “I’m the chief
on-line learning officer,” is astounding to me. So I think something that’s
been missing for years in our little on-line world,
is congressional outreach. ACE and all the other trade
associations do a great job at being umbrella organizations,
but none really has on-line learning as
their only policy goal. So they’ll put it in, in a
long list of other things that matter to them. But it’s closer to the bottom
of the list than the top. And as a result, I think there’s much more grassroots work we all
need to do to educate members of Congress about
what’s happening out there. The staff in Congress are
largely very intelligent. But they’re also largely very traditional. They’ve gone to traditional
institutions of higher education, usually top
institutions of higher education, and have been residential 18-22 year olds. So their experience and
knowledge about what the majority of higher education
looks like is almost nil. So it’s a barrier for
us, but we’ve all got to, as a community, go in and
make sure that the legislators and their staff know that we’re out there. – [Voiceover] What do
you think will happen with gainful employment? – That’s a really, really interesting one. So there are several aspects here. I’ll give you the alternatives. And I’m not sure I can give
you what will actually happen. So first of all, there’s a lawsuit. So the lawsuit last time threw
out a portion of the reg. I don’t think the Department
of Ed necessarily has enough time to go through round
three of gainful employment. So if the lawsuit was successful, then I think that the rule might die. If the lawsuit’s unsuccessful, it might be a multi-year appeal process. I also don’t know whether the
department is going to want to spend the resources on
years and years of litigation. That’s a great question for the Department of Ed representative
coming up, Joe South. No, no, no, don’t ask him that, please. But, so there are a couple
other things that can happen this year with gainful. There’s a bipartisan
group in the House that is pretty interested in getting
rid of gainful employment. So both the chairman
and the ranking member of the Ed Workforce Committee want to kill gainful employment. There was a bipartisan
bill that was introduced to put on hold gainful
employment state authorization credit hour and the rating system, until the HEA is re-authorized. That was led by Virginia
Foxx, who I mentioned before, in the House. It was just introduced, I think, yesterday by Senator Burr in the Senate. He’s from North Carolina too. So those bills are floating around, but what actually happens to them? So I think they are a couple things. So the first is, there’s
an appropriations process. So when Congress passes
an appropriations law, they can say either no money can be used on gainful employment,
or no money can be used on gainful employment until
the authorizing committee has a chance to re-authorize
the Higher Education Act. During which time the
Republicans could very well just cut the words gainful
employment out of the law, and there’d be no statutory basis for the rule in the first place. Which I think is pretty likely. Whenever we get there. And… Another thing that could happen. But as I mentioned, the
appropriations process is completely off the rails. Who knows when that will happen. Another option is that there
will have to be an extension to the HEA. And whether in that extension to the HEA, sometimes those are
clean and they just, say, extend the law for one year. And sometimes, like on 2006, they say extend the law for a year. Oh, and get rid of the Fifty Percent rule. So this one could say,
extend the law for a year. Oh, and by the way, kill
these four programs. Or kill these four regs,
or kill these four regs until HEA re-authorization fully happens. That, to me, just as
an observer and someone who’s involved with all
this, seems really fun. Because Congress would then pass a law. And the president would have to say, “Well, do I keep all the
funding flowing to institutions, and the billions and billions of dollars in Pell grants and loans? Or do I stand up for these rules that a lot of people have
been complaining about?” You know, it’s very interesting politics. But you know, the
Republicans might also say, “You know, we don’t want
to back the president into a corner yet again,
because we can’t keep on looking like the obstructionist party.” I mean, I don’t know if
anyone’s flying out today. But I would fly out
today, and not tomorrow, because who knows what happens with the Department of Homeland Security. Because they have no
money at the end of today. So that’s an option. And then finally it’s, does
Congress, does this House and this Senate re-authorize
the HEA in this Congress? Because I believe that would look a lot… With this president, whatever final bill, would probably remove the
term “gainful employment” and do something about gainful
employment permanently. And they would have to make
the rest of that bill palatable enough to the president that
he would want to sign it. Or, you know, does it go to, you know, the Hilary Clinton years? And… Or whoever’s the next president. And does the rule stand for some time? So there are a lot of questions,
and it’s just something we’ve all got to pay attention to. Somebody had a question over there. – Yeah, thanks. This has been a really,
really nice introduction. I did not know any of those
details about the law. So, but my question is, do you think, and this would really be probably for K-12 as well as higher ed,
do you think that people fully understand the impact
of the regulatory requirements and mandate on the educational mission? Because I know every time we
have to do another report, another bit detail, buy another program, hire another administrator,
we can’t hire another instructional designer,
teacher, student support person, We can’t do those things. Do people understand that? Do you think there will be any change? – So I don’t want to base too
much on what just happened. Because we have to see
how it all plays out. But I think this… I don’t know if anyone saw it last week. This report came out… Or two weeks ago. Lamar Alexander convened a task force, from the Senate HELP Committee, that was two Democrats
and two Republicans. So Alexander, Senator
Burr, as Republicans. Barb Mikulski from Maryland and Michael Bennet from Colorado as Democrats. They worked together, and
their staff, and they brought a whole bunch of external
institutions and entities in to analyze exactly that:
Bureaucratic creep. How difficult the process is
from a compliance standpoint. And then they came out,
just recently, with a report on exactly this issue. The ACE took the leading oar
on putting the report together. The two chairs were from Vanderbilt and from the University
of Maryland system. I mean, it’s, to me, a
pretty blistering read on over-regulation, on
activist regulation. How difficult it is to operate
an institution of higher ed in these circumstances. Just during the hearing
this week, there was hearing on the task force report
this past Tuesday. The president of Vanderbilt revealed that, and this is not just for HEA, this is for all of their federal grants and all their federal compliance. They spend $142 million
a year on compliance. And the University of
Maryland roughly guessed it was $225 million. I mean, if anything is
going to animate someone like Lamar Alexander to go
into action, it’s Vanderbilt saying it costs $142 million
to comply with the law. So… And he says all the time, I
mean, he’s used this analogy: I’m weeding the garden. And he’ll blame himself. He’ll say, “When I was secretary of that, I added to the weeds.” But you know, we’ve added 50
years of weeds to the garden. And we’ve never weeded the garden. And he wants to try to do this. I mean, as anyone who knows bureaucracy, and knows politics, that’s
exceedingly hard to do. You know, I don’t wanna… I don’t wanna kind of point
one member or another out. But I will. Yesterday when I was
watching on C-SPAN, the… The debate on ESEA,
representative Hakeem Jeffries, who I very much like, I have
a prominent charter school client in New York City,
and he’s a great member. He’s a new member of the
Ed Workforce Committee. He’s a Democrat. He proposed a provision
in ESEA that requires learning around copyright infringement. And, you know, how students
really need to learn about copyright infringement. That’s just the kind of thing
that, to me, makes no sense. It’s like, why is peer
to peer file sharing in your program participation agreement with the US Department of Ed? I mean, it just seems so far out of field. Yeah, do I like copyright infringement? Of course not. But does it need to be
in an education bill? No, put it in, you know, other bills. So I’m not necessarily optimistic there. But it does seem like finally
the message is getting out. Just how bad it is. But as with everything else, whenever you have the chance
to tell somebody about it, do. – Hi, I’m Nate Angell,
from an organization called Lumen Learning, that focuses on open educational
resources, and I’m going to bypass the copyright thing you brought up. (laughter)
And… And to ask a different question then, do you have any knowledge or focus on how federal regulations
are thinking around competency based education,
might be affected in this debate that’s happening right now? – Yeah, I actually… I’m writing a paper right
now with my colleague, for the American Enterprise Institute, on competency based
education and its regulation. You now, this is an area… and Joseph (mumbles) is a great person to ask this question too as well. This is an area that has taken off despite kind of all of the regulatory road blocks. And when we were doing our research, one thing that really shocked me was how creative the
institutions that are leading on competency based education are creating these crosswalks into credit hours. ‘Cause you have to get
to credit hours somehow. I mean, even if you’re using
another pathway to aid, you still have to get there somehow. And it was kind of this
light bulb moment for me. ‘Cause I was thinking, “Wow,
these folks are so creative.” Because this bureaucratic process sucks. And they’re just finding,
they’re dancing around it. So I do think competency based education is gonna be part of the
overall conversation in HEA. But I don’t think it’s
gonna be a central topic. There are so many issues
with the system right now. There are so many programs. It costs so much money. And you know, even just
the issue of accreditation. Everyone seems to be
frustrated with accreditation. But no one seems to
know what to do with it. I think we are going to
spend a lot of time trying to figure out, what do
you do with accreditation? Which, of course, has a huge impact on competency based education. So I think they’re gonna
really roll up their sleeves in a lot of areas, but I don’t think directly at competency
based education will be one. However, there was the
competency based law that passed the House last year. And I think it was unanimous, or like one or two votes against it. So obviously this is something, I mean, even in the current House
environment, everyone likes. So it will make its way in there. I just, I wouldn’t expect, you know, on the cover of the New
York Times, you know, President Obama signs
into a law, you know, competency based
education, re-authorization of the Higher Education Act. I think it’s gonna be a second tier issue. – Alright, I think that’s… I’m gonna… I’m gonna say thank you to Chris Murray.
– [Chris] Thank you so much. – For coming and giving us an awesome lesson.
– [Chris] Thank you everybody. (applause) – Higher education legislation. Thank you very much
Chris, thanks for coming. I’m gonna try and keep us on track, but we are due a break. So we’re gonna take a 15 minute break. And then we’ll return here
to talk with Joseph South from the Department of Education. So, short break everybody.

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