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FERPA Unconstitutional?

The executive director of a group that provides legal support and education for student journalists has posted an interesting analysis arguing that the Supreme Court's invalidation of the Medicaid expansion requirements in the Affordable Care Act should be interpreted as making FERPA unconstitutional. Since I'm not a scholar of constitutional law (as I told my father when I graduated with my baccalaureate, I'm a conscientious objector when it comes to going to law school), I won't hazard a guess as to the validity of the gentleman's analysis. I'm looking forward to seeing, though, if any of EDUCAUSE's friends in the legal community take a look at this issue and have a contrary opinion.

The Credentialing Contradiction at the Heart of MOOCs

Writing in the September 11, 2012, edition of Inside Higher Education, David Touve, a professor at Washington and Lee University, discusses the credentialing contradiction inherent in the massive open online course (MOOC) projects of various elite universities.

Latest Version of CEDS Now Available for Comment

Our friends at the Postsecondary Electronic Standards Council (PESC) sent us the following information about the status of the Common Education Data Standards (CEDS) process; note the September 28 deadline for submitting comments on the latest version of CEDS released for public review:

"Someone is going to write the software that eats higher education"

Kevin Carey, director of the New America Foundation’s education policy program and previously policy director at Education Sector, has actively engaged in the debates around the potential of technology to disrupt higher education for some time, largely on the pro-disruption side.

Accessibility A Major Topic at EDUCAUSE 2012

With a couple of months to go before the EDUCAUSE 2012 Annual Conference opens on November 6 in Denver, Colorado (and online), I wanted to highlight the large number of sessions focusing on technology accessibility for persons with disabilities. In addition to the sessions listed below, many others will touch on accessibility to some degree as the higher education IT community continues to expand its emphasis in this area. (For example, many presenters planning to talk about web design and development indicate that their sessions will include discussion of universal design principles.) However, in reviewing the abstracts for the following, I found that they have some aspect of accessibility for persons with disabilities as their core topic. If I missed any, though, please identify them by commenting on this post.

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.