The potential impact on health policy that might result from Democrats becoming the majority in the U.S. House of Representatives as a result of the mid-term elections earlier this month is described in Election Results to Ponder of this issue of TRENDS. The current page extends the discussion to consider how the education sphere also might be affected during the next two years. For example, Betsy DeVos, Secretary of the Department of Education, has been the target of steady criticism by Democrats since her appointment. One reason is her efforts to undo regulations from the Obama-era aimed at holding colleges accountable for the federal-loan debt of their students. She now can expect to be the object of tougher scrutiny by House Democrats.

Regulations proposed on November 16, 2018 that can determine how colleges handle cases of sexual misconduct under Title IX, the federal law meant to ensure gender equity on campuses, are destined to generate spirited opposition. Similarly, efforts by the Department to modify various regulations that deal with accreditation are destined to create a similar level of opposition. Meanwhile, an all-important Higher Education Act (HEA) continues to await reauthorization. Emboldened by their recent gains in the House of Representatives, combined with the prospect that they also might reacquire control of both the Senate and the White House in 2020, may provide an incentive for Democrats to wait until then to reauthorize the HEA. That way, they would be in a more advantageous position to produce legislation in line with their policy objectives.

Proposed Regulations On Title IX Campus Sexual Assault
The U.S. Department of Education on November 16 issued a long-awaited notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM) to specify additional regulations to implement Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972. The NPRM procedure is required by the federal Administrative Act, except in limited cases of emergency rulemaking, to provide the public with an opportunity to review, consider, and comment on draft regulations before they are finalized. Upon release of the proposed rule, opponents instantly began to express concerns that it will reduce the obligation of academic institutions to investigate complaints of sexual misconduct and decrease the likelihood that they will respond to the issue of sexual misconduct seriously. Another objection is that unlike previous federal policy, institutions would be responsible only for investigating misconduct that occurred within programs sanctioned by a college, thereby reducing protections for students assaulted or harassed off-campus. Equally contentious is a provision that would require colleges to allow for cross-examination of students in campus proceedings, but not allow the parties themselves to interact. Once published in the Federal Register, the rule enters a 60-day public notice and comment period.

Allowing The Department Of Education And The Internal Revenue Service To Share Student Data
An example of bipartisanship on display in the Senate following the recent election was the introduction of S. 3611 on November 13, 2018 to amend the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 and the Higher Education Act of 1965 to facilitate the disclosure of tax return information to carry out the 1965 Act, and for other purposes. The bill, co-sponsored by Chairman Lamar Alexander (R-TN) and Ranking Member Patty Murray (D-WA) of the Committee on Health, Education Labor & Pensions (HELP), is cited as the Faster Access to Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) Act of 2018. This proposed legislation would amend the Internal Revenue Code, which currently prohibits the IRS from sharing taxpayer data with the Department of Education, to allow the IRS to disclose tax return information to department officials "determining eligibility for, and amount of, Federal student financial aid."

Reauthorization Of The Higher Education Act (HEA)
The takeover of the House of Representatives by Democrats can be expected to reduce the likelihood of having a Republican version of HEA reauthorization, the Promoting Real Opportunity, Success, And Prosperity Through Education Reform (PROSPER) Act (H.R. 4508), become law. That proposed legislation has attracted wide criticism by higher education lobbying groups, along with various student and veteran organizations. Instead, it is likely that Democrats will strive to have their version, the Aim Higher Act (H.R. 6543), become the basis for reauthorizing the HEA. if an when that opportunity arises.

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