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  • Simplifying Federal Regulations for Colleges - is it possible?
  • Posted By:
  • Karen W.
  • Posted On:
  • 31-Jul-2015
  • Seeking to bring about a sweeping change in our country’s higher education landscape, both major party Senators continue to promote efforts to make federal regulations governing universities and colleges simple.

    According to what Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) said at the Senate hearing, we will land up in a big mess if we do not weed the garden now. As the new Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labour and Pensions chairman, he seems to be holding simplification of federal regulations as his top priority.

    Last year’s elections saw the Republicans wresting control of the Senate from the Democrats. According to them, the root problem lies in the fact that there is a lot of meddling around in education and all sectors of society.

    What has to be noted here is that the efforts of Republicans were not belittled by the Democrats. Sen. Patty Murray (Wash.) who recently retired from post said that it is important to ensure that no needless red tape is piled up even as she stated that it is definitely not a good idea to roll back vital protections offered for families, students and faculty.

    According to a task force report, compliance to the regulations is expensive due to the fact that they are voluminous. The report was prepared in association with the American Council on Education.
    In order to comply with the federal higher education regulations, an estimated $14 million is being spent by the Vanderbilt University every year. At this Tennessee based private institution, the cost works out to at least $1100 per student. As with Vanderbilt, every college in the country would definitely like to lower this huge cost.

    According to Zeppos who co-chaired the task force along with the University System of Maryland chancellor William E. Brit Kirwan, the regulations are designed very poorly which is the major reason for the high cost of compliance.

    According to the task force, regulations that drive up the cost of compliance include return of federal aid in case of dropout of student, eligibility verification, online education access provision, institutional accreditation and Clery Act, the campus safety laws that require reporting of crimes.
    Ironically, federal funding for scientific research and financial aid is vital for most public and private universities. From the government viewpoint, it is obliged to ensure that the financial aid dollars are utilized in the right manner and not wasted.

    Rising tuition cost must be contained by the government by leveraging the deregulation debate, says Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass). She asked the Vanderbilt committee if they would reduce tuition by $1100 per student if the federal expenses were completely eliminated. Students at Vanderbilt pay a total of $44,341 per year just for tuition and fees excluding board and room.

    According to Zeppos, it was not the intention of the task force to roll back all regulations. He said that universities must be given the freedom to channelize funds to areas where they find underinvestment. Warren said that the only aim is to ensure that the funds reach students and are not diverted elsewhere. According to Alexander, the need of the hour is to simplify federal financial aid regulations to make it easy for colleges to implement them efficiently.


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