New federal rule could have worst impact on small states

ED officials spoke at the forum, assuring college administrators that federal regulators would work with schools to comply with the potentially-costly state-by-state certification process, and reminding the crowd that ED will only mandate a “good faith effort” to meet the standards before the July 1 deadline.

“We don’t intend to penalize institutions if they haven’t received” authorization from every state by July 1, said Eduardo Ochoa, assistant secretary for postsecondary education. “When there’s a change like this, the kind of reactions I see are fear, uncertainty, and doubt. … I’m optimistic that … the fear will diminish and things will sort themselves out.”

Responding to educators’ concerns about state authorization, Ochoa called any negative impact of the federal rule “hypothetical” until it is enforced this summer. Nightmare scenarios spelled out by higher-education officials, he said, implied that ED would take a “very rigid approach” in enforcing the regulation from the start.

“We want to foster innovation and not suppress it,” Ochoa said. “This is all speculation right now.”

ED decertifies an average of two colleges and universities annually, said David Bergeron, the department’s acting deputy secretary for policy, planning, and innovation.

“We work with schools to bring them into compliance,” he said. “We don’t want to begin from a position of terminating an institution’s eligibility [for federal funds]. That’s just how we do things.”

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