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FCC Seeks Comments on Communications Technologies' Accessibility

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) released a notice (please see below) seeking public comments on its tentative findings regarding the accessibility of communications technologies, equipment, and services; the input received will inform the final report that the FCC submits to Congress later this year. The Commission's definition of the communications technologies space includes VoIP and videoconferencing as well as mobile devices, so campus experiences in those areas may be particularly helpful. If you think you may have information or insights to share, please review the notice and follow the instructions to submit comments online. The document covers 22 pages, but a quick scan will show that the parts of interest to EDUCAUSE members are relatively brief and easy to find. Please note, though, that the comment deadline falls shortly after the Labor Day holiday, so the timeframe for response is tight.

What Might the For-Profit Sector's Problems Mean for All of Higher Ed?

Earlier this week, the chair of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee, Senator Tom Harkin, held a press conference to announce the release of the committee’s report on the for-profit higher education industry. (The video archive of the press conference is currently viewable from Sen. Harkin’s homepage; in the future, it will most likely find its way to his “Videos” page or his YouTube site.) As the culmination of a two-year investigation, the four-volume report highlights a number of concerns about the sector’s recruiting and spending practices, student outcomes, and heavy reliance on federal sources of student financial aid for revenue.

Distance Ed. State Authorization Reg. Done for Now

Our colleagues at WCET, Russ Poulin and Megan Raymond, have highlighted last Friday's release of a "Dear Colleague Letter" (DCL) by the U.S. Department of Education (ED) that confirms ED will no longer seek to enforce the current federal student aid regulation extending state authorization requirements to distance education. In their blog post, Poulin and Raymond note, as the DCL does, that this does not change the status of state laws regarding state authorization of postsecondary education providers. Institutions delivering online learning into a state other than the one in which they are physically located will still have to determine if that state requires distance education providers to be authorized by the state in order to legally offer courses and programs in its jurisdiction.

What "going over the fiscal cliff" might mean to higher education

When funding for colleges and universities drops, campus IT budgets often take a hit as well. In the current context, any reductions in federal funds for higher education would come on top of cuts in state funding for higher education, which have already taken a toll on campus IT budgets at a number of public institutions. With these obvious points in mind, I reviewed the education funding section of a report released earlier this week by the chair of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies.

ED to Release Model Financial Aid Award Letter Tomorrow, Systems Implications Not Yet Resolved

The U.S. Department of Education held a conference call this afternoon to announce that it will release its model financial aid award letter (i.e., the financial aid "shopping sheet") tomorrow. As discussed on the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) website, "Know Before You Owe," the goal of this model letter, which ED and CFPB jointly developed, is to provide students and families with financial aid award information of a standard type and format across institutions so they can easily and effectively compare potential financial aid packages and choose the one that best fits their needs and circumstances.

The "Why" of the Senate Bill Affecting Pell Grants for Online Learners

In my comments pointing to Russ Poulin's blog on a Senate Appropriations bill provision that would eliminate living and personal expenses from the Pell Grant need calculation for fully online learners, I highlighted that Russ and I wondered about the rationale for the provision, but didn't have anything more than speculation at that point. This morning, Inside Higher Education kindly answered that question for us, indicating that their analysis of the conference report for the bill  (see pp.

Sen. Bill Would Cut Living Expenses from Pell Grants for Online Learning Students

In a blog entry yesterday, WCET's Russ Poulin highlighted that the FY 2013 Senate appropriations bill covering federal education spending included a troubling provision that would exclude fully online students from counting room-and-board and personal expenses from the need calculation that determines the size of the Pell Grant for which they might qualify. So, under the Senate bill, regardless of whether a complete, objective application of the financial need formula would indicate that two students should get a Pell Grant of the same size, the fully online student would actually get a smaller Pell award because a significant portion of his or her need would not be included in the calculation.

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First Congressional E-Learning Caucus Briefing

Yesterday, the Congressional E-Learning Caucus, chaired by Representatives Kristi Noem (R-SD) and Jared Polis (D-CO), held its first briefing for U.S. House of Representatives members and staff. Rep. Polis opened the meeting by reviewing the Caucus’s two primary goals—raising awareness in Congress about the nature and value of e-learning across the educational spectrum, and encouraging public policy that supports the development of e-learning to provide increased access to high-quality learning opportunities. He then introduced the panel convened to illustrate the range of e-learning across educational and economic sectors:

State Authorization in a Post-Appeals Court World

Since a federal appeals court upheld a lower court ruling vacating the U.S. Department of Education’s regulation on state authorization in relation to distance learning, views on what that means and what comes next have varied widely. Today’s Campus conducted a video interview on these issues with David LeFevre, “an expert in regulatory compliance and risk management for postsecondary institutions” with the law firm of Dunn and Davison.

APLU/SHEEO Commission on Distance Ed. Regulation: Preliminary Directions and Timeline

The APLU/SHEEO Commission on the Regulation of Postsecondary Distance Education that the two organizations announced a few weeks ago held its first meeting last week in Washington, DC. Though not represented on the commission, EDUCAUSE and WCET have good relations with various participants in the process. The results of our conversations with those participants follow.