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SED Comments on Proposed Federal Title IV Program Integrity Rule

Deputy Commissioner
Office of Higher Education
Rm 977, Education Building Annex
Albany, New York 12234
Tel: (518) 486‐3633
Fax: (518) 486‐2254
E‐mail: jfrey@mail.nysed.gov
Date: July 29, 2010

Jessica Finkel
U.S. Department of Education
1990 K Street, NW, Room 8031
Washington, DC 20006‐8502

From: Joseph Frey

SED Comments on Proposed Federal Title IV Program Integrity Rule
Docket ID: ED‐2010‐OPE‐0004

Dear Ms. Finkel:

I am writing to comment on proposed rules related to program integrity issues (ED‐2010‐OPE‐0004).

The New York State Education Department supports the Secretary’s efforts to ensure the integrity of postsecondary institutions and programs participating in HEA Title IV programs. Such efforts protect taxpayer investments in higher education and the interests of a diverse population of students who seek higher education for personal and professional growth. In addition, the Secretary’s proposal helps to provide a level playing field that benefits the great majority of institutions committed to sound academic and administrative practices.

I will limit my comments to the elements on which we would like to highlight our support and to a few areas that we believe should be reconsidered. First, we strongly support the following provisions:

  • Definition of credit hour (600.2). The proposed definition aligns with New York State’s regulatory definition of a semester hour under which all New York public, private, and proprietary degree‐granting institutions operate. We believe it provides a time‐tested measure that helps to ensure the consistency and rigor of academic awards. We urge the Secretary to adopt it without change.

  • State authorization (600.9). Colleges and universities located in New York must be authorized by the State. As a result, the proposed requirement reinforces an existing New York State mandate that provides a mechanism to hold institutions accountable. We urge the Secretary to adopt this section without change.

  • Misrepresentation. The provisions under Subpart F significantly enhance the Secretary’s ability to address deceptive practices that compromise students’ abilities to make informed choices about institutions and the expenditure of their personal, loan, and/or grant resources. We urge the Secretary to adopt these provisions without change.

  • Norming of ability‐to‐benefit (ATB) tests (668.146). We support the provision to norm such tests with a contemporary sample that is representative of the population of persons who have earned a high school diploma in the United States. We believe this will raise minimum standards and ensure the use of tests that are attuned to the skills needed for college success. We urge the Secretary to adopt this provision without change.

While the Department supports the proposed program integrity rules in general and the provisions noted in particular, we oppose and suggest reconsideration of the following two elements:

  • Reporting and disclosure requirements for programs that prepare students for gainful employment in a recognized occupation (§668.6). The proposed disclosure provision requires institutions to provide program‐by‐program links to occupational profiles on O*NET for every program “that leads to a certificate, degree, or other recognized educational credential and that prepares a student for gainful employment in a recognized occupation.” This will be an onerous requirement for many institutions, particularly if it encompasses the licensed professions and teacher certification programs. New York’s degree‐granting institutions offer more than 30,000 registered certificate and degree programs, the vast majority of which could be regarded as preparing students for gainful employment in recognized occupations. In addition, it is not clear that the specificity of the linked information will be reliable as a planning tool for students. We urge the Secretary to remove from this section the requirement that institutions link to O*NET each individual program offered that prepares students for gainful employment in a recognized occupation. At most, a general link to O*NET from an appropriate place on an institutional web site would appear to be sufficient.

  • Student eligibility. The New York State Education Department opposes the proposed new provision under §668.32 that would give institutions an option to determine a non‐high school graduate’s eligibility for Title IV aid by demonstrating ability to benefit through completion of a limited number of semester, trimester, quarter, or clock hours applicable to a degree or certificate. New York does not prohibit degree‐granting institutions from admitting persons who do not hold high school diplomas. However, we believe the existing requirement that such persons pass an approved Ability‐to‐Benefit (ATB) test to qualify for Title IV student aid continues to be the sound way to provide the objective assurance needed. The proposed regulation would not limit the range of subject matter or even require that the work be college level. This provision also would create a disjuncture between federal and State financial aid provisions, since under State law New York ATB students would still need to pass an appropriate test to qualify for State financial aid programs. We urge that the Secretary not adopt this proposed provision.

Thank you for the opportunity to comment on the proposed program integrity rules. We applaud the Secretary’s efforts to protect the interests of students and to support the responsible administration of higher education programs.

Joseph P. Frey

cc: Commissioner Steiner
Diana Hinchcliff
Cynthia Woodside

Last Updated: April 19, 2012