Federal Student Aid Office seeks comments on 2024-25 FAFSA form

The Department of Education’s Federal Student Aid office (FSA) recently posted a call for comments on the 2024-25 Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). Comments will be accepted until May 22, 2023. FSA announced that the 2024-25 FAFSA will not be available to students and families until December 2023, two months later than the usual October release date. More resources about the delay are available on the FSA website.

Education Department announces use of secret shoppers to protect students against unscrupulous institutions

The U.S. Department of Education recently announced that it will begin using secret shoppers to monitor postsecondary institutions’ compliance with laws and regulations governing student recruitment and federal financial aid.

“Schools that engage in fraud or misconduct are on notice that we may be listening, and they should clean up accordingly,” said Kristen Donoghue, FSA’s chief enforcement officer. “But schools that treat current and prospective students fairly and act lawfully have nothing to fear from secret shopping.”

NACAC’s Guide to Ethical Practice in College Admission offers guidance on best practices for student-centered admission, as well as links to select regulations related to the principles.

NACAC endorses Rep. Bonamici’s Bill of Rights for Students and Parents

NACAC endorsed legislation by Rep. Susan Bonamici (D-OR) that would establish a Bill of Rights for Students and Parents. The legislation:

  • Recognizes the importance of sufficiently supporting public schools so they can provide all students with a well-rounded education that prepares them for success in life and provides social mobility and economic empowerment;
  • Celebrates and encourages the engagement of students and their families in education and collaboration between families, educators, school leaders and community members with the goal of supporting student learning, growth and development;
  • Urges the adoption of educational materials by schools that are historically accurate, reflect the diversity of the nation, and prepare students to think critically and participate actively in a multiracial and multiethnic democracy; and
  • Promotes the implementation of practices that reduce disparities, eliminate discrimination and make schools safer, more inclusive and more supportive for all students.

The Bill of Rights for Students and Parents aims to counter the wave of divisive concepts legislation that discriminates against Black, LGBTQ, and other populations.

Department of Education announces negotiated rulemaking for higher education

The U.S. Department of Education announced  in the Federal Register that it will hold virtual public hearings to receive stakeholder feedback on potential issues for future rulemaking sessions. The virtual public hearings will be held from April 11-13 from 10 a.m. to noon and 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. ET. You can learn more and sign up for a speaking slot in ED’s press release. The department suggests the following topics for regulation in the hearing notice but invites comment on any regulatory issue that can improve outcomes for students. Potential topics may include:

  • The Secretary’s recognition of accrediting agencies and related issues
  • Institutional eligibility, including state authorization
  • Third-party servicers and related issues
  • The definition of distance education as it pertains to clock hour programs and reporting students who enroll primarily online
  • Return of Title IV funds
  • Cash management to address disbursement of student funds
  • Federal TRIO programs

The department also seeks feedback on how it can help improve borrowers’ understanding of repayment options and ensure borrowers select an income-driven repayment plan—instead of enrolling in deferment or forbearance—if doing so would be in their best interest.

NACAC joins higher ed organizations in support of student loan repayment improvements

NACAC joined the American Council on Education and other higher education organizations in submitting comments supporting the U.S. Department of Education’s proposed changes to the student loan repayment process. Among the provisions in ED’s proposal are automatic enrollment in income-driven repayment (IDR) plans, raising the income threshold to qualify for IDR, and accelerating the path to loan forgiveness.

NACAC Endorses Pell Grant Sustainability Act

Congressman Sean Casten (IL-06) and Congresswoman Susie Lee (NV-03) introduced the Pell Grant Sustainability Act to help students access the resources they need to attend college by indexing the Pell Grant to inflation, a move that would complement NACAC’s effort to double the Pell Grant.

“With college tuition skyrocketing and working families’ wages stagnating, it’s becoming nearly impossible for many students to pursue higher education,” said Rep. Casten. “Our Pell Grant system has made major inroads to help Americans of all backgrounds earn their degrees, but this success will not be sustained if the value of these grants continues to diminish as costs rise. I’m proud to introduce the Pell Grant Sustainability Act with Congresswoman Lee to ensure these grants continue to open doors to education for generations to come.”