Policy Guides

The Essential Guide to Higher Education

 
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Navigating Trump’s Washington is no easy task for higher education professionals. From fully grasping complex Washington processes like how a federal budget gets passed, the impact of budget cuts on student loans and being up-to-date on education-specific policies like Title IX and DACA, you have a lot on your plate.

This guide will help you become an expert on what’s happening in Washington so you can determine the impact of legislation and regulations on your campus, ensuring you’re always prepared to confidently make your next move.

Download the full PDF version here.

Table of Contents:

  1. DeVos Revisits Title IX Sexual Violence Investigations
  2. Postsecondary Education and the Post-DACA Era
  3. A Portrait of Student Debt
  4. The Federal Budget Process, Explained
  5. President Trump Proposes $1.2 Trillion In Fiscal 2018 Discretionary Spending
  6. The Senate HELP Committee
  7. All of President Trump’s Executive Orders and Memoranda

DEVOS REVISITS TITLE IX SEXUAL VIOLENCE INVESTIGATIONS

On September 7, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos announced that the Trump administration will replace Obama-era guidelines that enforce colleges' investigations into sexual assault allegations under the gender-equity law Title IX. DeVos, who held meetings with both campus sexual assault victims and students accused of sexual misconduct over the summer, described the shift as a restoration of due process that better balances the rights of victims and the accused. 

DeVos's announcement lacked specific policy changes - the administration will conduct a "notice-and-comment" process to collect input for a months-long rulemaking process. Her critiques of current practices, however, hinted as to where that process could lead. 

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‘Dear Colleague’ vs. Secretary DeVos 

DeVos’ statements condemned aspects of the “Dear Colleague” letter, a 2011 directive issued by then-Education Department Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights Russlynn Ali that outlines the steps colleges must take when responding to allegations of sexual assault. Failure to comply endangers schools’ federal funding, though such action has never been taken.

Much of DeVos‘ criticism was directed at the letter’s lengthy requirements she said confused policy implementers at colleges and universities. She also blasted the conduct of the previous administration’s Office of Civil Rights, which she said was “weaponized” to overly favor the victims’ rights over those of the accused and scare schools away from seeking guidance.

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POSTSECONDARY EDUCATION AND THE POST-DACA ERA

By Todd Lindeman and Kara Voght, POLITICO Pro DataPoint

The Trump administration announced Sept. 5 that it would end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, an Obama-era executive order that delays deportation for undocumented immigrants who arrived in the United States illegally as minors. The government will no longer accept applications from those seeking protection, though current DACA recipients have until Oct. 5 to seek another two-year renewal.

While the approximately 690,000 current beneficiaries won’t experience immediate repercussions from the policy change — the program won’t officially wind down until March 2018 — the shift raises questions for colleges and universities who serve this population. Here’s a look at the age and education attainment profile of DACA recipients, what education resources are available to them beyond DACA, and the role colleges and universities might play in supporting students who face deportation.

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Universities Can Help Undocumented Students, Even Without DACA

Several dozen colleges and universities have declared themselves as “sanctuary campuses,” stating they will not willingly assist government efforts to deport undocumented students. While the designation offers a proclamation of support, that term carries little, if any, legal status and offers only vague protection to students. Even so, the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act protects the privacy of student information and applies to all postsecondary schools that receive federal funds through the Department of Education.

In most cases, FERPA prohibits schools from sharing student records without students’ written consent. If school records indicate that a student is an undocumented immigrant, schools cannot release that information to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement or any federal agency unless compelled to do so by a judicial order or lawfully issued subpoena.

In the event that ICE does issue a subpoena, schools, generally, can notify the student of the subpoena prior to complying or disclosing any information. The Constitution dictates how immigration officials can behave on college campuses. In most circumstances, immigration enforcement needs a warrant signed by a judge to seek out students for deportation, a requirement that largely depends on the level of privacy an individual would reasonably expect in a given location. In general, a warrant is more likely to be required in spaces with a higher expectation of privacy.

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A PORTRAIT OF STUDENT DEBT

Each year, the Federal Reserve Board conducts a Survey of Household Economics and Decisionmaking (SHED) to examine the financial well-being of U.S. consumers. The survey includes data from over 6,000 adult consumers on topics related to the perceived financial health of individuals and members of their households, including perspectives on individuals’ education investments and student loan debt.

Survey results show that most who pursue postsecondary education maintain a better financial outlook than those who do not — only 17 percent of respondents with at least a bachelor’s degree report they struggle financially, compared to the 40 percent of those with a high school degree or less who say they are. The survey also reveals patterns of student loan debt and satisfaction with postsecondary educational outcomes.

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Repayment Status Correlates With Institution Type and Degree

The percentage of student loan borrowers behind on their payments is largest among those who attended for-profit institutions and those who earned two-year, or no, degrees. Thirty-eight percent of respondents have one or more loans that are in deferment, meaning they still owe money but do not currently have to make payments.

For those who currently owe student loan debt for their educations, the mean level of debt is $32,731 and the median is $17,000. Adults aged 25-34 maintain the highest monthly student loan payments, given the fact that many in this cohort have attained some measure of postsecondary education and maybe pursuing an advanced degree.

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The More Degrees, the More Satisfaction

To gauge the perceived value of higher education, the survey asks respondents who attended college if they think the lifetime financial benefits of their postsecondary education outweigh the lifetime financial costs. While 53 percent of adults with some college education believe the benefits of their education exceed costs, that perception correlates positively with the level of degree attainment.

Nineteen percent of respondents believe their education’s costs outweighed the benefits. The survey also asks respondents what they would do differently if they had the opportunity to make their education choices again. These responses offer further insight into why some people feel that their educational investment was less worthwhile.

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THE FEDERAL BUDGET PROCESS

To receive federal funding, federal agencies must begin developing their budgets 18 months ahead of the next fiscal year. They must also monitor the progress of their requests as they are pushed and pulled through the White House, House of Representatives and Senate.

READ POLITICO PRO'S ESSENTIAL GUIDE TO THE FEDERAL BUDGET HERE


President Trump Proposes $1.2 Trillion In Fiscal 2018 Discretionary Spending

President Donald Trump’s budget for fiscal 2018, released Tuesday, outlines a total $4.1 trillion in mandatory and discretionary spending, projected to be 20.5 percent of GDP. The OMB’s projections assume GDP will grow by 2.4 percent in 2018, an increase from 1.6 percent in real GDP growth in 2016. Projections also show the budget would have a surplus of $16 billion in 2027. The budget includes $1.2 trillion in discretionary spending. The largest discretionary spending increase goes toward defense, at $25 billion, while the largest cuts would hit HHS, State and Education.

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THE SENATE HELP COMMITTEE

The Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee is responsible for a broad range of policy issues: All measures related to education, labor, health and public welfare fall under its jurisdiction.

Chairman Lamar Alexander and ranking member Patty Murray are well known for their dealmaking — both on health care issues and for the bipartisan passage of their Every Student Succeeds Act. This will be Alexander’s final term in the Senate; he has announced that he will not be running for reelection in 2020.

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ALL OF PRESIDENT TRUMP'S EXECUTIVE ORDERS AND MEMORANDA

President Donald Trump has issued executive orders and memoranda — which presidents increasingly use interchangeably and are equally legally binding — at a faster pace than former President Barack Obama from the beginning of their respective presidencies. Trump has wielded his executive power most often for issues related to energy and the environment, national security and trade.

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