Thursday, May 21, 2009

AACC Withholds Consensus Over Pell Grant Draft Regulations

On May 13, AACC was one of three parties to withhold consensus on Team V of the Department of Education's (ED) Higher Education Act negotiated rulemaking panels. The panels were constituted to develop regulations to implement key sections of last August's Higher Education Opportunity Act (PL 110-315). AACC withheld consensus on the year-round Pell Grant draft regulations proposed by ED. AACC also joined with the National Association of Independent Colleges and Universties (NAICU) to withheld consensus over what AACC considers regulatory over-reaching concerning the institutional reporting of job placement by a college's graduates. This reporting must be done as part of mandatory annual institutional disclosures.

The year-round Pell Grant issue is fairly complicated, but it boils down to the fact that ED maintained that before a student could get a second scheduled Pell Grant in a given award year, they had to have accumulated a year's worth of academic credits that year. In many cases this is not a problem, because a student who has not completed a year's worth of academic work usually has some of his or her first Pell Grant eligibility remaining. However, some students will have used up all of their first Pell Grant, and either because of unusual enrollment patterns or because they simply failed a course, would not be eligible for the second, "year-round," Pell Grant. The absurdity, at least to AACC, is that this same student who would be denied the second Pell Grant in the summer on this basis would be eligible for another Pell Grant in the fall. The Department said that it wants to encourage students to truly "accelerate" academically, and while we understand that perspective, we also think that acceleration could mean going to school in the summer when a student might otherwise have to delay enrollment.

Despite the fact that consensus was not reached on this negotiated rulemaking panel, AACC believes that the draft regulations were much improved by the three three-day negotiating sessions.