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Pending Legislation


Federal Agencies Propose New Rules and Revise Others

The Fall 2023 Unified Agenda of Regulatory and Deregulatory Actions includes regulations that will impact higher education. The Department of Education’s (Department) priorities include federal student aid debt relief, Title IX revisions, and updates to FERPA and EDGAR.


Rules under consideration by other federal agencies could have a tremendous impact on colleges and universities. These include legislation governing overtime pay, pregnant worker rights, independent contractor classification, and labor certification for foreign STEM workers. The proposed update to overtime rules is of particular concern as it may significantly increase the number of employees eligible for overtime pay at institutions already struggling financially. The College and University Professional Association for Human Resources (CUPA-HR) published an extensive review of that and other pending legislation. 


Negotiated Rulemaking

The Department held the final negotiated rulemaking session on student loan debt relief. The result is not likely to provide the broad relief the administration promised and will probably be a factor in the upcoming elections. Rulemaking will resume in 2024  to consider recognition of accrediting agencies, institution eligibility, requirements for participation in TRIO, distance education, return of Title IV funds and cash management issues related to disbursing Title IV funds. 


Other Bills Under Consideration

The Minority Entrepreneurship Grant Program Act was introduced in the House by Representative Nikema Williams (D-GA). The bill establishes a federal grant program in the Small Business Administration to support entrepreneurship initiatives at HBCUs and Minority Serving Institutions.


The DETERRENT Act passed the House with bipartisan support despite the effort of detractors. In a letter signed by several higher education organizations, the American Council on Education (ACE) urged Congress to vote against it.  ACE called the legislation duplicative and unnecessary and said provisions of the bill will be burdensome to both institutions and the Department of Education. The bill now moves on to the Senate.


The Bipartisan Workforce Pell Act advanced in the House. The bill expands Pell Grant (Pell) eligibility to students enrolled in programs between eight and fifteen weeks long. Pell eligibility for short-term programs enjoys overwhelming bipartisan support. However, there is opposition to offsetting the cost by making institutions subject to the endowment tax ineligible to participate in federal student loan programs. ACE presented its initial concerns in a talking points bulletin (the bill has since been updated). 


The John Lewis Civil Rights Fellowship Act, a bill that creates a fellowship for the study of nonviolent civil rights movements abroad, is included in the 2024 National Defense Authorization Act. The fellowship will be part of the Fulbright US Student Program. The bill, which has bipartisan support, was introduced in the House by Representatives Nikema Williams and Nancy Mace. Companion legislation is expected be introduced in the Senate by Senators John Hickenlooper, Jon Ossoff, Susan Collins, and Tim Scott.


Other News

Completion Rates

According to National Student Clearinghouse (NSC), overall completion rates remained the same for the 2017 cohort as they were for the 2016 cohort—62%. On the sector level, rates for community colleges improved but declined in all four-year categories. The report, data, and an interactive dashboard are available on the NSC website.


Eyes on Football Playoff LLC 

State Attorney General Ashley Moody issued an antitrust civil investigative demand for documents pertaining to the practices and polices of College Football Playoff LLC (CFP). The move came after CFP selected the teams from University of Texas at Austin and the University of Alabama over the undefeated Florida State University. Senator Rick Scott (R-FL) questioned whether the decision was influenced by a contract between ESPN and the South Eastern Conference said to be worth $3,000,000,000. Read more on the Tampa Bay Times.


Credential Standardization

The American Association of Collegiate Registrars and Admissions Officers released a report calling on the higher education community to standardize naming and transporting alternative credentials. AACRAO report is based on a survey done earlier this year. The association says the matter is urgent as more states and private entities eliminate a degree qualification for many positions. 


Credit and Credential Registry

Credential Engine, a website that provides information on degrees, certificates, badges, and skills, will include ACE’s National Guides credit recommendations in its registry. Institutions can use the registry to fine tune transfer and credit for prior learning policies. Read more on the ACE website.


Employers Relax Degree Requirements

A survey by Intelligent.com revealed that a significant percentage of companies have either eliminated bachelor’s degree requirements or plan to do so. It appears to be happening mostly at the entry level in tech related fields such as information services and software development. Read more about this on Higher Ed Dive


Employers Give Higher ED High Marks

A recent survey by Morning Consult found employers were satisfied with the way colleges prepare graduates for employment. Employers also indicated they appreciate microcredentials, with nearly 70 percent showing a preference for applicants who have both a degree and a microcredential. Read the full report on the American Association of Colleges and Universities website


Final Rule

The Department published final regulations governing the Fulbright-Hays Doctoral Dissertation Research Abroad Fellowship Program and the Faculty Research Abroad Fellowship Program. Effective January 8, 2023, the rule revises language proficiency qualifications, clarifies the secretary of education’s discretionary use of eligibility criteria, and adds a severability clause applicable to the subparts of the regulation. 


Large Title IX Judgement

A $15,000,000 judgement against Thomas Jefferson University and Thomas Jefferson University Hospitals, Inc., is the largest award rising from a Title IX complaint. In the wake of the ruling, experts advise institutions to award sexual misconduct claims brought by men against women with the same scrutiny as those brought by women against men. Read more on Higher ED Dive


Foreign Gift and Contract Reporting

The Department updated the frequently asked questions, webinars, guidance and other resources related to compliance with foreign gift and contract reporting requirements. A searchable database of submitted reports is also available. The next deadline for reporting is January 31, 2024.


Sector Credit Ratings

High interest rates, labor and wage challenges, and enrollment issues, impacted the credit ratings forecast for higher education. While Moody’s Investors Service had a rather optimistic outlook, Fitch Rating and Standard and Poor’s Global were more circumspect. Fitch Ratings forecast a difficult time ahead for the higher education sector. They predict net tuition will rise but not enough to outstrip operating costs. Standard and Poor’s had a negative view for small, less selective, regional institutions and a stable forecast for large institutions that possess ample resources. Read about the issue on Inside Higher Ed.


Improving Enrollment

Declining enrollment has led many institutions to modify their enrollment strategies. By minimizing misinformation, improving advising, scrapping complex prerequisites, relaxing transfer restrictions, and tackling affordability challenges, institutions hope to make it easier for students who are about to graduate from high school or community college. Additional strategies include direct admissions, guaranteed admissions, dual admissions, and articulation agreements. Read about the issue on Inside Higher ED.


Institution Seeking to Provide an HBCU Lens

Gallaudet University has attracted attention for new initiatives to support Black deaf students. Earlier this year, the university’s Center for Black Deaf Studies hosted symposium that aimed to view the need for study of Black deaf people through an HBCU lens. Students and alumni say the higher education needs more scholars, deaf and hearing, familiar with Black American Sign Language and Black deaf history. HBCUs have a long history of supporting Black deaf students, particularly in the years prior to desegregation. North Carolina A&T State University, Howard University, Hampton University, Florida A&M University, and Morgan State University are listed among the top HBCUs for ASL and deaf studies.


Backlash from Congressional Testimony   

Fallout from a congressional hearing on antisemitism at colleges led to a bipartisan resolution condemning the university presidents who testified. One of the trio, the president of the University of Pennsylvania, resigned and the other two face continuing pressure to do the same. In addition to financial pressure by mega-donors, Harvard University is fielding accusations of plagiarism against President Claudine Gay, and facing a federal inquiry.  Initially, the university found that while she did not commit research misconduct, Dr. Gay did not adhere to the Harvard Guide to Using Sources. In a letter to the university, the US House Committee on Education and the Workforce, demanded the university provide several categories of documents relating to academic integrity violations, plagiarism, communication with its accreditor, and internal guidelines and policies. Representative Virginia Foxx stated institutions must hold faculty and students to the same academic integrity standards. She warned that the university’s eligibility to participate in federal student aid was at stake.


The testimony of M. Elizabeth Magill, JD, then-president of the University of Pennsylvania, Dr. Claudine Gay, president of Harvard University, and Dr. Sally Kornbluth, president of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology was widely condemned. Experts suggest the trio was over-prepped and coached by legal experts to give legally correct but dispassionate responses. They advise the preparation of administrators for a hearing should be handled by professional public relations experts. Pundits also suggest institutions adopt a policy of not commenting on social and political controversies. The Chronicle of Higher Education published a series of articles that includes analysis of the current events and the broader issue of neutrality.


Department of Education Office of Civil Rights

The Department opened several investigations into incidents of antisemitism and islamophobia at institutions of higher education as tensions continue to run high over the war in Israel. At risk is eligibility to receive federal aid. The current list of investigations has over seventy entries and includes, colleges, universities, and school districts.


Year in Review

2023 was an active year that included the abolition of affirmative action, the dismantling of diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives, controversy over gender politics, free speech, unionization, strikes, and violence. Read Inside Higher ED’s end of the year review and forecast on their website


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Bluefield State University Board of Governors named Dr. Darrin Martin interim president. An alumnus and associate professor of education, Dr. Martin currently serves the university in several key capacities. He takes the helm from Mr. Robin Capehart retired, effective December 31, 2023. 


Saint Augustine’s University Board of Trustees named Dr. Marcus H. Burgess interim president. Dr. Burgess is an experienced administrator having served in various capacities at Claflin University, Florida Memorial University, Voorhees University, and York Technical College. He takes the reins from acting president, Dr. Leslie Rodriguez-McClellon.


The Board of Trustees of State Institutions of Higher Learning named Dr. Marcus L. Thompson president of Jackson State University. He currently serves as deputy commissioner and chief administrative officer of Mississippi’s public university system. A Jackson State University alumnus, Dr. Thompson is a former teacher and administrator. He takes the reins from Dr. Elayne Hayes-Anthony who was named acting president in March 2023.


Howard University School of Law named legal scholar, Mr. Roger A. Fairfax, Jr., its next dean. Mr. Fairfax is an expert on criminal justice and diversity in the legal profession. He currently heads American University Washington College of Law. His tenure will begin in July 2024. 


Allen University announced Mr. Cedric Pearl will take on the role of head football coach. Prior to this appointment, Coach Pearl served as defensive line coach for Alabama A&M University. 


Alumnus Cedric Thomas will be the head coach at Alcorn State University. He previously coached at Alcorn State University, serving two stints as defensive coordinator and one as defensive back coach. He takes the reins from Coach Fred McNair who may have accepted the head coaching position at Texas Southern University.


Fisk University named Wendy Thompson, JD., chief of staff. Ms. Thompson is the vice chancellor for access and diversity for the Tennessee Board of Regents. She previously served as counsel and assistant to the president at Middle Tennessee State University. She is a member of the National Association of Diversity Officers in Higher Education.


Morgan State University named Dr. Ryan Maltese associate vice president of student success and retention and Mr. Nehemiah Israel director of procurement and property control. The university appointments are part of a campaign to improve student retention and completion and overall efficiency.


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Grants and Gifts

The University of the Virgin Islands received a $5,300,000 grant from the National Science Foundation for Navigating Home. The initiative aims to increase employment opportunities for graduates—particularly in STEM and in marine and environmental sciences. The university also received a $35,000 gift from Digital Lending Innovation to advance women’s healthcare. Read more on the University of the Virgin Islands website.


Five HBCUs received grants to increase research and development infrastructure from the Department of Education. Hampton University received $4,962,986, Southern University and A&M College received $4,999,999 The University of Maryland Eastern Shore received $4,680,568. Texas Southern University receives $4,996,543. Tennessee State University received $4,946,573. The grants will be used to establish programs, create centers, recruit researchers, and help the institutions achieve R1 or R2 status.


Tuskegee University received a $2,200,000 grant from the Health Resources and Services Administration’s Maternal Health Research Collaborative for Minority-Service Institutions Research Centers. The funds will be used to improve maternal and infant health outcomes in rural black belt counties in Alabama.


Benedict College was awarded a $400,000 grant from the National Science Foundation as part of its Enabling Partnerships to Increase Innovation Capacity Program. The college will partner with Somerset Community College and Rose State College to increase participation in regional innovation and research.


Delaware State University received a three-year $300,000 grant for microalgae research to led by Dr. Ali Paraeimehr and Dr. Gulnihal Ozbay. The researchers will investigate use of microalgae in energy applications and in cancer treatment therapies. Read more on the Delaware State University website.


Dillard University Day of Giving included a $250,000 Match Challenge. AT&T Louisiana president, Mr. David Aubrey and regional manager for external affairs, Mr. Eric Jones donated $5,000 to jump-start the challenge. The campaign and donation brought attention to the ways corporations and communities can collaborate to support educational initiatives. Read more on the Dillard University website.



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The chair of Virginia University of Lynchburg Board of Trustees announced the institution is debt-free. Mr. LeRoy M. Owens made the disclosure in the latest edition of the university’s newsletter, Integritas Imprimis. He credited Dr. Kathy Franklin, president for her leadership in achieving that goal. 


The Director of the US Department of Energy’s Office of Science appointed Dr. Halima Ali to the national Fusion Energy Science Advisory Committee. Dr. Ali is a professor of mathematics at Hampton University. She will play a crucial role in shaping federal policy in regard to fusion energy research. Read more on the Hampton University website.


A study by Helios Education Foundation found Black students had a 40% higher probability of completing a bachelor’s program at an HBCU than at a traditionally white institution. The study focused on Florida where it found the four HBCUs there graduate more Black students in STEM programs than all of the other institutions combined. Read the study and the article on the Helios website.


Xavier University of Louisiana announced Dr. Florastina Payton-Stewart, associate provost for faculty affairs and professor of chemistry, has won the American Chemical Society’s Stanley C. Israel Award for the Southwest region. The award honors individuals for making significant contributions to the advancement of diversity in the chemical sciences. Read more on the university’s website.


North Carolina A&T State University and North Carolina State University are working together to help property owners protect heirs property, land held by a family for generations, without the formality of wills or probate. The program is funded by the Department of Agriculture through Alcorn State University and the Southern Rural Development Center at Mississippi State University. Dr. Biswanath Dari, an assistant professor at North Carolina A&T State University will lead. Read more on the North Carolina A&T State University website.


Wood County in Texas published a feature article on Dr. Glenell M. Lee-Pruitt, Jarvis Christian University’s new president. Read about it on the university’s website.



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A new program launched at Texas College will use an umbrella approach to provide wrap-around services to students. In addition to academic support, the program will assist students with career and life planning. Read more on the college's website.


Bowie State University is expanding its sociology degree program for students incarcerated at the state of Maryland’s Jessup Correctional Institution. The program will include its first cohort of incarcerated women this spring. Tuition for the program is covered by Pell Grants, however the institution covers the balance of the cost of instruction, including academic support. Read more on Best Colleges


Delaware State University added a doctoral degree to its social work program. The university is the only institution in Delaware to offer associate, bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees in social work. The doctoral program launched with 23 candidates this fall. Read more on the university's website.


Johnson C. Smith University’s TRiO Student Support Services will pilot a first-generation leadership program. TRiO Support Services are provided for students who are eligible for a Pell Grant, the first-generation in their family to attend college, or have disabilities. The pilot program will connect first-generation students with faculty and staff who previously were first-generation students. Read more on the university’s website.


Dominion Energy will test alternatives to lithium-ion batteries by providing backup power to Virginia State University’s multi-purpose center. A large venue, the center is  used for athletic events, commencements, concerts, and other activities. Dominion Energy and Virginia State University will develop curriculum geared toward preparation for careers in the energy sector. Read more on the university's website.


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Federal Student Aid (FSA)
Contact agencies or call 404-874-0555 to schedule a consultation with a student financial aid management specialist.

●  Federal Student Aid (FSA) published a reminder regarding required attestations for regular and short-term programs. The notice included information on the applicability and enforcement of final regulations published on October 31, 2023. Read the notice online. .


●  The FAFSA soft launch will start soon. Both the period prior to and after the December 31, 2023 soft launch will be treated as a soft launch period. The site will be paused periodically for maintenance and updates and will use a waiting room feature to help control visitor volume. Applications submitted during the soft launch will be stored and processed. Read the details here. . 


●  FSA published guidance effective for any Single Audit performed using the 2023 Compliance Supplement. The guidance provides an update to the student consent requirement. Normally, institutions are required to obtain student consent before activating an access device (like a bank card or a code) used for electronic funds transfer. Failure to maintain documentation sufficient to demonstrate compliance could result in an audit finding. However, because some financial institutions have declined to provide auditable information, auditors will not be required to perform the suggested audit procedure (b.(2) in the 2023 Compliance Supplement). This pertains to situations where an access device is provided to a student for school purposes other than electronic fund transfers ( ex. ID card) and after receiving the device, the student provides consent to the financial institution to validate it.


●  The Department published information on suspension and debarment from participation in FSA programs and a list of individuals currently suspended or debarred. 


●  The updated SAIG enrollment agreement is available. This update requires institutions to sign an acknowledgment of the criminal and civil penalties for the unauthorized inspection or disclosure of federal tax information. The latest edition of SAIG software is required to transmit federal tax information for the 2024–25 award year. Software updates for EDconnect and TDClient are available on the software page of the FSA website.


●  FSA provided an outline and suggested text for 2024-2025 FAFSA verification. Institutions are not required to use the suggested text and formats, with the exception of the "Statement of Educational Purpose" (Appendix A ) for students who are placed in Verification Tracking Groups V4 or V5. That text must be used exactly as provided. Aside from that exception, institutions may develop and use their own text, forms, documents, statements, and certifications specific to the items required to be verified for a particular student or group of students.


●  All adverse actions by an accreditor are subject to the Higher Education Act arbitration requirements according to a reminder from the Department. The secretary will not recognize the accreditation or pre-accreditation of any institution that does not agree to submit disputes involving adverse actions to arbitration prior to taking any legal action.


●  Institutions impacted by a national emergency in a foreign country can take advantage of waivers offered by the Department. Under the CARES Act, the Department can waive limitations on distance education and written arrangements if a national emergency has been declared in the foreign country where the institution is located. This applies only to declared national emergencies. It does not apply to disasters or closures that are not part of a national emergency. The Department will consider granting waivers on a case-by-case basis upon request by an institution. The waiver, if approved, will be granted retroactively to the date a national emergency was declared. Unless the Secretary notifies an institution otherwise, the waiver will expire at the end of an institution’s first payment period that begins after the end of the declared national emergency.


●  Under the guidance aimed at institutions that participate in the Federal Family Education Loan, Parent Plus Loan, and the Federal Perkins Loan Programs, a loan holder can fulfill its regulatory requirements by evaluating a borrower’s undue hardship claim to determine whether full or partial discharge is recommended. In cases where the borrowers claim of undue hardship is not supported, the holder must determine if the cost of objecting to the claim will exceed the amount that would be discharged.


●  The 2024-2025 College Financing Plan is available. The plan is a tool that institutions can use to notify prospective students about their financial aid package. Scroll down to see the list.


●  FSA issued a warning to research institutions about hackers targeting and exploiting Atlassian’s Confluence Data Center and Server. The attackers create an unauthorized administrator account to access Confluence instances so they can exfiltrate data. Institutions are advised to check their server version to see if it is a vulnerable one (CVE-2023-22515), upgrade your server, and conduct comprehensive threat detection.


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Event: Developing a Donor Engagement Plan

Date: January 18, 2024

Location: Online


Event: CHEA Annual Conference

Date: Jan. 29-Feb. 1, 2024

Venue: Washington, DC


Event: ABHE Annual Meeting

Date: Feb. 14-16, 2024 

Venue: Orlando, FL


Event: The Integral Partnership for Innovation: Board and Administration Roles in Leading Accreditation

Date: On Demand (AGB Membership Required)

Venue: Virtual


Event: How to Start a Registered Apprenticeship

Date: Podcast

Venue: Virtual


Event: Strategies for Surviving Year-end Reporting

Date: On Demand

Venue: Virtual


Event: University Business Cybersecurity Webinar

Date: On Demand

Venue: Virtual

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Happy New Year from the WPG Family
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About this Publication
WPG HBCU News is a monthly email published by the Wesley Peachtree Group, CPAs (WPG) as a service to the sector. It consists of short summaries of news articles, government regulations, and announcements found online.

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