Education Department Seeks Input on Regulations

min read

(July 6, 2017) On June 22, the U.S. Department of Education (ED) issued a proposed rulemaking, "Evaluation of Existing Regulations" (82 FR 28431), seeking public input on current department regulations that should be considered for repeal, replacement, or modification by ED's Regulatory Reform Task Force.

This process is being conducted in response to Executive Order 13777, which was signed by President Trump on February 24, 2017. The order "established a Federal policy to 'alleviate unnecessary regulatory burdens' on the American people." Under it, all Federal agencies are required to create a "Regulatory Reform Task Force" to evaluate existing regulations and make recommendations on which are unnecessary, unduly burdensome, or in need of modification.

ED's task force released a progress report on May 25. While the report does not include many specifics, it does outline the department's next steps in the process and refers to 150 ED regulations that will be considered by the task force moving forward. It also calls for modifications to the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA); a federal law that mandates the privacy protections required for students' educational records. The report explains that FERPA needs to be updated to reflect changes in the nature and use of education technology. Additionally, it mentions ED' plans to meet with higher education associations in the fall to discuss regulatory reform. ED' task force is composed of fifteen department staff members, including both political appointees and career officials. It is being led by Robert Eitel, a lawyer for the department who previously worked for a for-profit college company.

In 2013, the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) itself organized a task force to conduct a comprehensive review of ED regulations and identify unnecessary or burdensome requirements. This task force was composed of 16 college and university presidents and higher education experts. It produced a report, "Recalibrating Regulation of Colleges and Universities: Report of the Task Force on Federal Regulation of Higher Education." The document highlights several recommendations for improving the regulatory process and cites ten specific regulations that should be repealed or replaced, including state authorization for distance education programs. It is believed that ED will rely on this analysis in addition to the new comments received under the proposed rulemaking in deciding which regulatory changes to pursue.

Comments on the proposed rulemaking are due on August 21, 2017.

Jen Ortega serves as a consultant to EDUCAUSE on federal policy and government relations. She has worked with EDUCAUSE since 2013 and assists with monitoring legislative and regulatory proposals across a range of policy areas, including cybersecurity, data privacy, e-learning, and accessibility.