ED TAKES STEPS TO
Another emerging trend is the concerted effort
by the U.S. Education Department (ED) to eliminate key regulations undertaken by the Obama
administration. Hundreds of pieces of guidance
have already been rescinded, along with either the
delay or elimination of regulations impacting state
authorization, credit hour, accreditation, teacher
training and most recently the gainful employment regulation, which would have affected both
community colleges and for-profit providers.
While ED’s focus has been on deregulation,
there also is an opportunity for community colleges
to test new ways to use Title IV funds through the
department’s Experimental Sites authority, which
previous administrations have used.
The Experimental Sites Initiative (ESI) allows
ED to waive specific statutory or regulatory
requirements in Title IV upon the request of a
Title IV-approved institution. The department
examines the result of this pilot against current
law to determine whether it can be used as a
model for other institutions nationally. Examples
of the types of pilots approved in recent years
through the ESI include competency-based education, prior learning assessments and Pell funds
for short-term training. Typically, the department
approves waiver requests from institutions on a
case-by-case basis, but they can also do so more
broadly through a RFP.
While the Trump administration hasn’t yet
used ESI, colleges proactively can submit a letter
of inquiry directly to the Experimental Sites
team at ExperimentalSites@ed.gov outlining its
desire to request a pilot and outline the components of its project. If the concept is of interest,
the ESI team will negotiate the specific components of the waiver and once approved can
provide technical assistance, reporting requirements, specific waivers provided under the
experiment, and required policies, procedures
and other documentation.
Senior administration officials have indicated
that they expect to explore using the ESI authority and have expressed specific interest in having
institutions test alternative approaches to providing
federal work-study programming.
PREPARING THE WORKFORCE
A third consistent theme permeating both parties
is education in preparation for employment. This
trend is driven by two core factors: employers’
need for skilled workers and more than $1 trillion
in student loan debt now carried by students.
Demand-driven education and training has been
the mantra in both the passage of the Workforce
Innovation and Opportunity Act and in the most
recent Higher Education Act reauthorization proposals from both parties.
However, the desire to ensure that there is an
employment opportunity after postsecondary education and training also is featured in the House’s
Temporary Assistance for Needy Families ( TANF)
bill reauthorization, so much so they named their
bill the JOBS Act, with a renewed focus on providing
participants credentials and degrees in demand
occupations to help move recipients from public
benefits to private sector employment. This trend
also is in evidence in the negotiations over the Farm
Bill, which includes the Supplemental Nutrition
Assistance Program’s (SNAP) employment and
training programs, with significantly augmented
funding for training for SNAP recipients.
In each of these federally funded programs,
community colleges can and do play a linchpin role
in providing industry-recognized credentials and
degrees in partnership with employers at a scale
unmatched by other sectors of postsecondary education. The continuing trend for demand-driven
training is expected to increase as employers seek
more skilled workers to support economic progress.
In addition to these emerging trends, there
are broader public policy trends with momentum regardless of which party controls the White
House and Congress. These include evidence- and
outcomes-based policy, transparency in policy
and programming, public-private partnerships,
cross-silo program designs and more responsibility
and flexibility for state and local governments in
program design and administration.
All these trends offer community colleges additional opportunities to expand and thrive moving
forward for years to come.
John Colbert and Leander J. Foley III are with Capitol Hill Partners in
“With more jobs available than workers in our current economy, work-
based learning has gained considerable momentum in Washington, D.C.”