Federal Policy Issues to Watch in 2013

​AIR members know that the “talk around D.C.” often results in new work on our desks— “trickle down” is not just an economic term. It is smart to keep an eye on the federal government scene, and to that end, eAIR asked four Washington data policy insiders to predict what is coming in 2013.

Bryan J. Cook
Director, Center for Policy Analysis, American Council on Education

Increasing demand for more and “better” data. In recent years, the federal government has developed an insatiable appetite for data. While data can be useful, too much data can be counterproductive and redundant (see Shopping Sheet, College Scorecard, College Navigator, and College Affordability and Transparency Center). Additionally, the data federal policy makers want most (student learning and employment outcomes) cannot be had without a (controversial) national student record system. Don’t be surprised to see this topic revisited at some point in 2013.

Jarret S. Cummings
Policy Specialist, EDUCAUSE

Student identity verification. In the 2008 Higher Education Opportunity Act reauthorization, academic integrity concerns arose regarding the extent to which institutions could assure that the distance learning student receiving credit for an online course was the person actually completing the coursework. More recently, the issue reemerged in relation to financial aid fraud rings that target online programs at low-cost, open-enrollment providers such as community colleges. Before the 2012 election, the U.S. Department of Education signaled plans to launch a new rule-making process to strengthen institutional verification of student identity. The higher education community will have to remain vigilant to ensure that the potential regulations encourage effective approaches that minimally impact already fiscally strapped institutions.

Wendell Hall
Deputy Director, Institute for Higher Education Policy

Pell Grant. The program invests in the nation’s lowest income collegians and has been the bedrock of the federal financial aid system since its inception. Recent growth in college enrollment, coupled with the 2007 economic downturn, led program costs to double between 2008 and 2011. To many, the cost of this program has been deemed unsustainable. The fight over the Pell Grant program’s costs was overshadowed in 2012 by the debate over the student loan interest rate hike. In 2013, I fear that the Pell Grant will be back on the radar of many looking to cut domestic spending.

Christopher M. Mullin
Program Director for Policy Analysis, American Association of Community Colleges

Student persistence and institutional retention. While last year was the year of labor data, I believe this year will see the introduction of further conversations related to student persistence and attainment (across all institutions). Be prepared to explain the difference between student persistence and institutional retention, again.

What federal policy developments are you tracking in 2013? Share your thoughts and questions below.



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Total Comments: 4
Marlene posted on 1/16/2013 6:21 PM
I'm curious if there will be any guidance issued about reporting earnings potential on the College Scorecard (that is, if it remains as one of the reporting categories).
Tony posted on 1/17/2013 8:40 AM
I appreciate this section of eAIR. It is important for us as IR professionals to continuously do environmentsl scanning and know what's on the horizon. As a former recipient of the Pell Grant, I sincerely hope this program does not see significant cuts.
Emily posted on 1/17/2013 11:00 AM
The issue of student identity verification is going to be big challenge and burden for many institutions, but a necessary one.
Kristy posted on 1/22/2013 1:54 PM
Policies and data collection related to student persistence and institutional retention is of particular interest to me. Our campus is surrounded by a number of community colleges, many of which serve as pools for potential transfer students. As we have continued to design articulation agreements, we have found a great need for this type of data (persistence and graduation rates) and to track both national and local trends so we can remain educated and competitive in the community college/4-year institution arena.