Highlighting the Education Department’s accomplishments under the Trump administration, Principal Deputy Under Secretary Diane Auer Jones said the agency had listened to colleges’ call for regulatory relief.
“We heard what you’ve said about regulatory burden and we’ve tried to address it,” she said remotely at the Federal Student Aid Training Conference Wednesday.
This fall, for example, the agency replaced the 265-page Handbook for Campus Safety and Security Reporting guiding higher education administrators in following the requirements of the Jeanne Clery Disclosure of Campus Security Policy and Campus Crime Statistics Act with a 13-page addendum to another department handbook on administering financial aid.
That simplified the reporting process and gave institutions more discretion in deciding what to report, she said.
Changes to accreditation standards, allowing colleges to get quicker approvals and giving accrediting agencies more discretion in sanctioning institutions, will allow for more flexibility, she said.
The COVID-19 pandemic has illustrated the need for more flexibility in judging institutions, she said. The pandemic’s economic fallout has made it unfair to judge colleges over standards like job placement. An increase in students taking gap years during the pandemic has affected institutions’ retention rates, she said.
The administration also repealed the Obama administration’s gainful-employment rule, which had been criticized for being aimed at for-profit institutions, said Jones, a former lobbyist for the industry.
Instead of penalizing colleges if graduates do not get jobs that pay well enough to repay their students loans, the department has sought to put more onus on students to not take out more in loans than they can repay. The department has made information more accessible so students can borrow responsibly, including adding data to the College Scorecard on the salaries graduates earn in different fields of study. “We think students can make better decisions if they have better information about the programs they’re attending,” Jones said.
In addition, she said borrowers for the 2021-22 award year will have to sign a student loan acknowledgment laying out how much a month they will have to repay.