Washington Insights & Highlights
May 3, 2019
Federal Departments and Agencies News

Department of Education

New Student Aid Data

The Department of Education has released its quarterly report on student aid programs that covers the fourth quarter of 2018 and part of the first quarter of 2019. The data show that enrollment in income-driven repayment plans continued to rise; approval of Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) applications slightly increased; new federal student loan defaults decreased; and delays persist in processing of borrower defense claims.

Last week, the department indicated that the lack of progress on addressing borrower defense requests is due to a pending court ruling in the 9th Circuit where a federal judge blocked the Administration’s proposed policy last fall. The department plans to move forward on a rewrite of the regulation based on that proposal later this year. According to testimony from a joint field hearing of the House Education and Labor Higher Education Subcommittee and House Veterans Affairs Economic Opportunity Subcommittee held on April 24, a significant amount of student Veterans are among the growing backlog of applications for student loan debt relief under borrower defense.

Guidance on Financial Aid Offers

The Department of Education has released guidance aimed at improving the transparency of financial aid information that colleges and universities offer to students. Among the recommendations is listing grant aid, loans, and work-study separately, as well as including the full cost of attendance.

Student Loan Assistance for Military Members

A new data sharing agreement between the Departments of Education and Defense will allow the federal government to automatically provide members of the military currently serving in war zones with student loan benefits. The agreement will allow the agencies to compare information on military borrowers across existing databases to automatically determine whether they qualify to eliminate interest on their student loans during combat service. The benefit has been available to military servicemembers since 2008, but relatively few have received it.

Proposed Higher Ed Rules Released

On April 16, the Department of Education released its proposals to overhaul a range of higher education regulations on which a negotiated rulemaking panel reached consensus earlier last month. The proposed rules include changes to federal rules overseeing college accreditation, state authorization of online education, religious institutions, competency-based education, and TEACH grants. The department will next publish the proposed regulations in the Federal Register after which a period for public comment will be held before final rules are promulgated. At the same time, last week, a federal judge in California indicated that she would rule against the department’s move to delay previous regulations on state authorization rules for online college programs.

National Science Foundation

Funding Opportunity Webinar

The Directorate for Education and Human Resources (EHR) will hold a webinar on Tuesday, May 7 at 2:00 PM ET providing an overview on submitting proposals to its Faculty Early Career Development Program (CAREER).

Department of Homeland Security

International Student Declines Continue

New Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS) data from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement show that the total number of international students studying in the U.S. decreased by 2.7 percent between March 2018 and March 2019. This includes a 2 percent drop in the total number of international students from China and a 1.2 percent decline from India. Furthermore, according to media reports, hundreds of Chinese students studying in the U.S. are encountering delays when renewing their student visas following last year’s change to the length of visas for Chinese graduate students in certain STEM fields, shortening it from five years to one year.

Department of Agriculture

NIFA Funding Opportunity

A new grant opportunity from the Department of Agriculture’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) aims to increase the knowledge of agriculture and improve the nutritional health of children through The Food and Agriculture Service Learning Program. Researchers at colleges and universities are eligible to apply.

National Endowment for the Humanities

HSI Funding Opportunity

The National Endowment for the Humanities has issued a funding opportunity through its Humanities Initiatives at Hispanic-Serving Institutions (HSIs). The goal is to strengthen the teaching and study of the humanities at HSIs by developing or enhancing humanities programs, resources, or courses. 

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