Summer 2023
Top Story

Loan Forgiveness Blocked and Affirmative Action Struck Down

The high court blocked President Biden’s loan forgiveness plan and ruled that race-conscious admissions are unconstitutional.


The Supreme Court scuttled President Biden’s student loan forgiveness program. The majority found that the president and secretary of education had overstepped their authority. The Court did not dispute the fact that the HEROES Act authorized the secretary of education to modify or even waive outstanding student loans during a national emergency. In fact, former president, Donald Trump used the HEROES Act to pause student loan repayments during the early days of the pandemic. However, the Court ruled that due to the scale of the program, congressional approval would be required. Pundits and observers had foreseen this outcome


The president responded by instructing the education secretary to: establish a negotiated rulemaking committee; adopt three provisions of the SAVE plan; and provide a “12-month on-ramp” to repayment plan


Negotiated Rulemaking

The first public hearing to kick off the negotiated rulemaking process will convene on July 18, 2023. Negotiated rulemaking is usually a lengthy affair. If all proceeds rapidly and smoothly, it can be accomplished in a year. However, it may still face legal challenges, including lawsuits similar to the one just decided by the Supreme Court. 


The SAVE Plan

The Department is escalating the implementation of three provisions of the SAVE Plan. Under the first provision, income up to two hundred twenty-five percent of the federal poverty guidelines will be protected from payments. For example, an unmarried individual who earns $33,000 annually will not have to make payments. Under the second provision, a borrower’s loan will not grow due to unpaid interest. The Department will not charge monthly interest not covered by the borrower’s payment. Under the third provision, a married borrower who files their taxes separately will not be required to include their spouse in their family size or include their spouse's income in their payment calculation. 


The On-Ramp

The on-ramp to repayment will cover 12 months during which missed payments will not be considered delinquent, reported to credit bureaus, cause the loan to be placed in default, or referred to debt collection agencies. Read the fact sheet here and Education Secretary Miguel Cardona’s comments here.


Affirmative Action

In a separate decision, the Supreme Court reversed prior rulings that permitted colleges to consider an applicant’s race as a factor in admissions when striving to achieve diversity. The Court found that admissions programs at Harvard College and the University of North Carolina violated the equal protection clause of the fourteenth amendment. President Biden decried the ruling and Vice President Harris called it a step backward


In response, the Whitehouse released a fact sheet listing several remedial actions it will take to mitigate the effect of the Supreme Court decision. The administration said it will: provide information on the legality of alternative admissions practices that can help institutions achieve diversity initiatives; help institutions support students from underserved communities; host a national summit on the issues; and publish a report that addresses equal opportunity in post secondary education.


The ruling could be used to prevent small private institutions from pursuing diversity initiatives. Skittish states may scale back diversity programs to avoid litigation. Some will probably pass laws similar to those enacted by Texas and Florida. The ripple effect has already curtailed the award of scholarships that consider race as an award factor. Observers predict this move away from diversity initiatives will lead to increased enrollment at HBCUs. However, were that to occur without an increase in funding, resources could be strained. An enrollment surge would heighten the importance of equitable access to financial markets and external investments that can be used to upgrade infrastructure, expand student support, and increase endowments. 


Higher education advocates stress that the ruling is narrow and institutions can still craft policies to ensure their student bodies are diverse while adhering to the law. Alternatives were discussed at the recent National Conference on Race and Ethnicity in Higher Education. However, Students for Fair Admissions, the plaintiff in the lawsuit, is backed by wealthy people and organizations. Edward Blum, spokesperson and founder of Students for Fair Admissions, vowed to monitor the sector and sue any institution he suspected of flouting the ruling. 



Several individuals and organizations responded to the Department of Education’s request for comments on its proposed Gainful Employment rule. The American Council on Education (ACE) expressed concern over the debt to earning ratio and other components of the proposed rule. ACE said that according to its review, twenty-six percent of programs at HBCUs and twenty-seven percent of programs at MSIs would fail either the D/E (debt to earnings) or EP (earnings premium) rate under the new regulations.. The Association of American Universities  and the American Association of Community Colleges also expressed concerns. The comment period closed on June 20, 2023. However, comments are still visible online


The American Council on Education (ACE) released A President’s Guide to the Clery Act: 2023 Edition. The publication is timely as the deadline to disseminate the annual security report is October 1, 2023.


Fitch Ratings did not foresee an imminent repercussions from the Supreme Court ruling on affirmative action. The ratings company cautioned that long-term effects could still occur. Fitch also warned that ability to recruit minority and underrepresented students will become critical as demographic projections suggest high school graduating classes will dwindle in size while becoming more diverse. The phenomenon might have a greater impact on small less selective colleges.


Cybersecurity concerns continue to plague colleges and universities. According to the latest Sophos report, the education sector reported the highest number of attacks over the last year. Although in many cases institutions are targeted directly, they can also be impacted when a service provider or partner is compromised as proved by the recent MOVEit hack. An estimated 15 million people had their personal information compromised when federal agencies, school districts, nonprofits, colleges, and multinational businesses that use MOVEit software were hacked. The total number of victims is likely to be much higher. Federal Student Aid published a list of suggestions for institutions that use MOVEit.  Other breaches unrelated to MOVEit include cyberattacks against Stephen F. Austin State University and Hawaii Community College. Northeastern State University confirmed hackers have posted its data online.


The FUTURE Act established a direct pipeline between the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and the Department of Education. Starting in the 2024-2025 financial aid award year, the IRS will disclose federal tax information for FAFSA filers directly to the Department of Education. Tax information is categorized as controlled unclassified information (CUI) and is subject to cybersecurity compliance rules. Higher education advocate, EDUCAUSE warned colleges and universities to be on the lookout for an update to the Student Aid Internet Gateway (SAIG) agreement that  includes a NIST 800-171 compliance requirement related to this federal tax information arrangement.


Revamped FAFSA may impact student eligibility for existing institutional and state-sponsored financial aid programs. To help colleges and universities prepare for the changes, Advocacy groups requested clarification on changes to consideration of: siblings simultaneously enrolled in college; the independent status of married students; inclusion of family farm assets and small business assets; and the replacement of an allowance for state and social security taxes with a payroll tax allowance. The new FAFSA is scheduled to be released in December 2023.


The debt ceiling legislation effectively reduces previously approved funding for research and development initiatives. The CHIPS and Science Act of 2022 authorized $10,000,000,000 for Regional Technology and Innovation Hubs. However, Congress appropriated only 5 percent of that for the first year of the program. The debt ceiling legislation freezes that appropriation and all non-defense discretionary spending for two years. 


Florida A&M University (FAMU) students’ class-action lawsuit against the state of Florida will proceed. The lawsuit aims to hold the state accountable for appropriating less per student to FAMU than it provides to the University of Florida. The state requested the court dismiss the lawsuit but Judge Robert L. Hinkle has allowed the suit to proceed.


Thurgood Marshall College Fund passed a resolution that opened membership to HBCUs that are community colleges. Six institutions: Bishop State Community College, Drake State Community & Technical College, Gadsden State Community College, Lawson State Community College, Shelton State Community College, and Trenholm State Community College, joined the organization. All are located in Alabama where they play a critical role in the state’s economy


Governor Ron DeSantis announced that Florida filed a lawsuit to block federal enforcement of accreditation requirements. The lawsuit specifically lists grievances against the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges. It asks the court to find that the accreditation requirements are unconstitutional and prohibit the Department of Education from enforcing them.


Diversity Equity and Inclusion (DEI) policies continue to be a point of contention for states and public institutions. Bitter feuds over funding DEI initiatives at its flagship institution have roiled Wisconsin. The University of Arkansas preemptively shuttered its DEI office. Texas banned DEI initiatives at its public institutions and launched a  program to enforce compliance. Florida enacted a ban on DEI at its public institutions. A bill introduced in the US Senate would prevent accrediting agencies from considering a candidate’s DEI policies during the accreditation process.


The number of institutions requiring applicants to submit SAT or ACT scores continues to fall. Over 1,900 institutions have test-optional policies in place for the upcoming fall semester. This is mostly viewed as leveling the field for low-income applicants. However, a study released by the National Center for Fair & Open Testing (FairTest) found test-optional policies can trigger a transfer of wealth from low-income families to affluent families. This can happen when the optional tests are taken by students seeking to win merit-based scholarships. The more affluent students in that group purchase test-preparation programs, books, and software. They can also afford to hire tutors. As a result, their test scores are higher and they win more of the merit-based scholarships. The less-affluent students are less likely to have access to test-preparation. They are less likely to outperform those who have prepped for the test. Thus, they are less likely to win the merit-based scholarships. However, they and their families are more likely to support this system by purchasing the lottery tickets used to fund the program. According to researchers, the lottery system functions as a regressive tax. Low-income participants provide the lion’s share of funds for lottery-backed state education scholarships. 


The Federal Trade Commission began issuing payments to victims of a student loan debt relief scam. Posing as an affiliate of the US Department of Education, a network of companies and individuals  charged fees to enroll borrowers in bogus loan forgiveness, consolidation, and repayment programs. Thousands of victims were lured by telemarketers, television and radio commercials and online advertisements.


Boil water advisories, shelter-in-place decrees, damaging fires, floods, tornadoes, and hurricanes drive home the importance of climate change, clean energy, and environmental justice. A recent article published by the Hechinger Report focused on the way some institutions are addressing these challenges. Activities include forging alliances with industry and government, expanding related degree programs, reducing their own waste and carbon footprint, and improving disaster response capability. For example, New York City is building a campus dedicated to developing solutions for climate change and the Higher Ed Climate Action Task Force is developing a framework for climate related policies.


Turnitin, a plagiarism and generative AI detection service plagued by false positives, updated its guidance for faculty. Recommendations include: using a previously collected verified sample of the student’s writing, providing the students information on copyright and citation policies, and employing the company’s  AI misuse checklist.


The US Supreme Court declined to hear Ohio State University’s appeal of a Title IX case involving abuse that occurred between 1978 and 1998. This leaves the appellate court’s ruling in place. That ruling set the statute of limitations to begin in 2018, when an internal investigation confirmed that the university was aware of the abuse at the time it took place


Trustees at Stillman College named Dr. Yolanda Page president. Dr. Page takes the reins from Dr. Cynthia Warrick who has retired after 5 years at the helm.


Dr. Carmen Jean Hawkins Walters has stepped down from the presidency of Tougaloo College. Dr. Walters was named president in 2019. The Board of Trustees named Dr. Donzell Lee to serve as interim president.


Johnson C. Smith University named alumna and trustee as president.  Dr. Valerie Kinloch will begin her presidency August 1, 2023. She takes the reins from Clarence D. Armbrister, J.D. who has retired.


The University of the District of Columbia named Dr. Maurice D. Edington president. Dr. Edington takes the reins from Ronald Mason Jr., J.D. who will continue to serve as a member of the faculty at the David A. Clarke School of Law. 


The University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff named Dr. Brenda Jacobs interim chair for the nursing department. Dr. Jacobs is a board-certified nurse practitioner. She takes the reins from alumna Ms. Diann Williams who has retired. 


Bowie State University named Dr. Cheryl Blackman dean of the College of Professional Studies. Dr. Blackman had served as interim dean during the national search.


South Carolina State University named Dr. M. Evelyn Fields dean of the College of Education, Humanities and Social Sciences.  Dr. Fields had been serving as the college’s acting dean.


Virginia Union University named Dr. Ahkinyala Cobb-Abdullah executive director of the Union National Research Institute. Dr. Cobb-Abdullah is the principal investigator for several research grants at the university.


Dr. Walter G. Bumphus, president and CEO of the American Association of Community Colleges, has been named vice chair of the Homeland Security Academic Partnership Council. The organization is tasked with making recommendations to the Department of Homeland Security on matters related to education, funding, security, research, and academia.


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The US Department of Agriculture’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture launched its From Learning to Leading: Cultivating the Next Generation of Diverse Food and Agriculture Professionals Program. The Inflation Reduction Act allocated $262,500,000 to the program which will include several projects. Tennessee State University received  $18,110,000 and will lead the Next Generation Inclusion Consortium for Building the Food, Agriculture, Natural Resources, and Human Sciences Pipeline project. Participating institutions and organizations include: Tennessee State University, Fort Valley State University, Alcorn State University, University of Houston, Chief Dull Knife College, Middle Tennessee State University, University of Tennessee-Martin , University of Tennessee, Virginia Tech, Vanderbilt University, and the Minorities in Agriculture, Natural Resources, and Related Sciences organization.


Gadsden State Community College received $12,000,000 through the Education Supplemental Appropriation Bill. The funds will be used to establish the Advanced Manufacturing and Workforce Skills Training Center.


The US Department of Energy awarded a $2,260,000 grant to aid in the establishment of the Winston-Salem Quantum Education Collaboratory. The program is led by the university’s chemistry and computer sciences departments. Clemson University, a key collaborator,  provides access to its research facilities and offers advanced degrees.


The University of the District of Columbia received a $2,000,000 commitment from the Potomac Electric Power Company’s (Pepco) HBCU Power Partnership program. The grant will fund scholarships and  internships through the Pepco Power Scholars Program. It will also fund the university’s Developing America’s Workforce Nucleus (DAWN) Initiative.


Fayetteville State University received a five-year $423,487 grant from NASA’s Minority University Research and Education Project. The funds will be used to provide free residential summer camps for high school students. This year’s camp will focus on earth science and geospatial science and technology as they relate to climate change.


Dillard University received a $100,000 endowed scholarship from the MacGregor Community Development Corporation of Houston, Texas in honor of Mr. James J. Smith. An alumnus of Dillard University, Mr. Smith is  the founding president of the MacGregor Community Development Corporation. The scholarships will be awarded to eligible male freshmen from Houston, Texas and Ascension Parish, Louisiana.


The US Department of Education awarded Project School Emergency Response to Violence grants to Texas Southern, Delaware State, Claflin, and Howard Universities to defray the cost of their response to bomb threats received last year. Texas Southern was awarded $191,962; Delaware State was awarded $217,000; Claflin was awarded $440,000 and Howard was awarded $203,000.


South Carolina State University received a $10,000 donation from the James E, Clyburn Scholarship & Research Foundation. The donation will be used to establish an endowed scholarship in the name of Dr. Emily England Clyburn, the late wife of Congressman James E. Clyburn (D-SC). The congressman and his wife are alumni of South Carolina State University.


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Charles R. Drew University of Medicine and Science College of Medicine will welcome its first cohort of medical students this summer. The college is located in the Watts-Compton-Willowbrook area in South Los Angeles. Dr. Deborah Prothrow-Stith, globally recognized for her approach to public health and violence prevention, is the founding dean.


The University of the Virgin Islands Board of Trustees approved four new degree programs. The programs are: associate of applied science in renewable energy technology, bachelor of science in agroecology, bachelor of science in agricultural business, and bachelor of science in animal science. The university will pursue articulation agreements with other Caribbean institutions and take other steps to attract qualified students.


Simmons College Kentucky will offer college courses at Kentucky Correctional Institution for Women. Programs available to eligible applicants include: an associate degree in general studies, an associate degree in religious studies, a bachelor degree in sociology, and bachelor degree in business entrepreneurship. The college will also offer support services.


Miles College and Drake State Community & Technical College signed an agreement that creates a partnership beneficial to both HBCUs. The agreement creates a seamless transfer process, creates scholarship opportunities, allows reverse transfer credit, and provides reciprocal privileges for students seeking support services and advising.


South Carolina State University will offer a Bachelor of Science degree in mechatronics—a discipline that involves studies in both mechanical and electrical engineering. South Carolina is home to major manufacturing companies and the university is the first in the state to offer the degree. The program is expected to grow quickly as the demand for engineers with training in mechatronics is high.


The University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff is poised to launch two bachelor of science degree programs this fall. Pending approval by the Arkansas Higher Education Coordinating Board, the university will offer a bachelor of science in engineering and a bachelor of science in cybersecurity.


Simmons College of Kentucky and the Kentucky Community & Technical College System have signed an agreement to accept each other’s credits. The agreement will provide students the opportunity to transfer credits as needed to complete an associate’s degree.


Clinton College will launch several new programs this fall. The college will to offer bachelor of science degrees in nursing, healthcare administration, cybersecurity, interdisciplinary studies, elementary education, and music. 




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Deadlines and Information



Federal Student Aid (FSA) published information and guidance related to the implementation of pre-dispute arbitration agreement provisions that went into effect July 1, 2023.   


The deadline to submit the FISAP is September 30, 2023.


FSA provided information on the end of the COVID waivers and flexibilities and information regarding post-pandemic accreditation requirements for distance education


The deadline to file a disclosure report regarding foreign ownership and gifts and/or contracts with foreign entities/sources valued at $250,000 or more is July 31, 2023. 


FSA released the list of institutions approved for the Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant (FSEOG) and Federal Work-Study (FWS) programs. The list is available in Excel format and PDF format.


FSA published a list of suggested single audit procedures related to NSLDS Enrollment Reporting.


EDExpress for Windows 2023–2024, Release 2.0.is available and a service release update is available for EDExpress for Windows 2022–2023.


The Department published a fact sheet for the Prison Education Program and information about the application form for institutions that want to participate in the program. (The application is available.)


The Department provided information to clarify and update institutional and applicants' roles and responsibilities related to Title IV dependency determinations for unaccompanied homeless youth.


The deadline to submit the Work Colleges Program Report of 2022-2023 award year expenditures is September 29, 2023. The deadline to file the Institutional Application and Agreement for Participation in the Work Colleges Program for the 2024-25 award year for new applicants is November 1, 2023. For returning participants/applicants the deadline is March 4, 2024.


The deadline for the Direct Loan closeout for the 2021–2022 program year is July 31, 2023. All data must be received and accepted by this date to be included in a school’s final ending cash balance for the year. Please note that cash management, disbursement reporting, and monthly reconciliation regulatory requirements supersede the closeout deadline. 


FSA updated the 2024-25 Draft Student Aid Index (SAI) and Pell Grant Eligibility Guide.


FSA provided information on verification requirements  and verification reporting and the status code W on the 2022-2023 FAFSA. Information for the 2023-2024 award year was published in the Federal Register (includes policy for incarcerated students).


FSA posted the 2023-2024 Expected Family Contribution (EFC) Guide.


Information on noncitizen Title IV aid eligibility, including lawful permanent residents, special immigrant conditional permanent residents, special immigrant parolees, and non-special immigrant Afghan parolees is available here, on the  DHS-SAVE’s Fact Sheet, and in Volume 1, Chapter 2 of the Federal Student Aid Handbook.


FSA posted sequester-required increases to Direct Loan fees and sequester-required reductions in Iraq and Afghanistan Service Grant and TEACH Grant award amounts. These apply to loans and grant awards where the first disbursement is on or after October. 1, 2023, and before October. 1, 2024. For fiscal year 2024, the sequester-required changes are the same as the fiscal year 2023 sequester-required changes. The table of interest rates for Direct Loans first disbursed between July 1, 2023 and June 30, 2024 is also available.


The number to fax corrections of Pell Grant Overpayment (POVR) Assignments is 240-931-3320. Please update your processes. 



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Event: 2023-2024 Institute on Open Educational Resources

Date: July 24-25, 2023

Location: Virtual

Information: Additional Details


Event: 2023 HBCU Philanthropy Symposium

Date: July 30-August 2, 2023

Location: Harbor, Maryland

Information: Additional Details


Event: AACC Future Presidents Institute

Date: September 10-12, 2023

Location: Denver, CO

Information: Additional Details


Event: 2023 National HBCU Week Conference

Date: September 24-28, 2023

Location: Arlington, VA

Information: Additional Details


Event: College and University Professional Association for Human Resources

Date: October 1-3, 2023

Location: New Orleans, LA

Information: Additional Details


Event: TRACS 2023 Annual Conference

Date: October 25-27, 2023

Location: Orlando, Florida

Information: Additional Details



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 provides short summaries of news articles, government regulations, and announcements found online.

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