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Subject: Notice Inviting Suggestions for New Experiments for the Title IV Student Assistance Programs

Publication Date: December 6, 2013

Posted Date: December 6, 2013

Subject: Notice Inviting Suggestions for New Experiments for the Title IV Student Assistance Programs

FR Type: Notice


[Federal Register Volume 78, Number 235 (Friday, December 6, 2013)]
[Notices]
[Pages 73518-73519]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Printing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2013-29213]
[[Page 73518]]

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DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION

Notice Inviting Suggestions for New Experiments for the 
Experimental Sites Initiative; Federal Student Financial Assistance 
Programs Under Title IV of the Higher Education Act of 1965, as Amended

AGENCY: Department of Education.

ACTION: Notice.

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SUMMARY: The Secretary of Education invites institutions of higher 
education that participate in the student assistance programs 
authorized under Title IV of the Higher Education Act of 1965, as 
amended (the HEA), and other parties, to propose ideas for new 
institutionally based experiments designed to test alternative ways of 
administering the student financial assistance programs to be a part of 
the ongoing Experimental Sites Initiative (ESI). For this set of 
experiments, the Secretary seeks suggestions for creative experiments 
to test innovations that have the potential to increase quality and 
reduce costs in higher education, while maintaining or increasing the 
programmatic and fiscal integrity of the student financial assistance 
programs authorized by Title IV of the HEA (Title IV, HEA programs). 
The Secretary is particularly interested in experiments that will 
improve student persistence and academic success, result in shorter 
time to degree, and reduce student loan indebtedness.
    Based on the suggestions submitted in response to this notice the 
Secretary will design experiments and corresponding evaluation plans. 
The Secretary will subsequently publish a second notice in the Federal 
Register to announce approved experiments, describe implementation and 
evaluation, and invite institutions to apply to participate in the 
experiments.

DATES: Suggestions for new experiments under the ESI must be submitted 
no later than January 31, 2014 in order to ensure their consideration.

ADDRESSES: Submissions must be made in the form of an attachment to an 
email sent to the following email address: experimentalsites@ed.gov.
    Instructions for Submitting Suggestions: We recommend that 
suggestions be prepared in either a Microsoft Word or Adobe Acrobat 
document that is attached to an email sent to the email address 
provided in the ADDRESSES section of this notice. We ask that 
submitters include the name and address of the institution or entity 
that is submitting the suggestion and the name, title, mailing and 
email addresses, and telephone number of one contact person for the 
submission.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Warren Farr, U.S. Department of 
Education, Federal Student Aid. Email at: Warren.Farr@ed.gov or by 
telephone at (202) 377-4380.
    If you use a telecommunications device for the deaf (TDD), call the 
Federal Relay Service (FRS), toll free, at 1-800-877-8339. Individuals 
with disabilities can obtain this document in an accessible format 
(e.g. braille, large print, audiotape, or computer diskette) by 
contacting Warren Farr.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION:

Background

    This past August, President Obama outlined an ambitious new agenda 
to combat rising college costs and make college affordable for American 
families. One of the components of the President's plan is to remove 
barriers that stand in the way of competition and innovation in higher 
education, including barriers that prevent the use of new technologies 
or adoption of alternative approaches to teaching and learning. (For 
more information see: www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2013/08/22/fact-sheet-president-s-plan-make-college-more-affordable-better-bargain-).
    To support the President's agenda, the Secretary will use his 
statutory authority under section 487A(b) of the HEA to grant waivers 
from specific Title IV, HEA statutory or regulatory requirements to 
allow a limited number of postsecondary educational institutions to 
participate in experiments to test alternative methods for 
administering the Title IV, HEA programs. Such experiments are referred 
to in the HEA as "experimental sites." \1\
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    \1\ Currently there are approximately 120 postsecondary 
educational institutions participating in one or more of eight on-
going experiments. Information about these experiments is available 
on our Web site at https://experimentalsites.ed.gov.
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    Consistent with section 487A(b) of the HEA, the Secretary generally 
cannot waive requirements related to need analysis, award rules (other 
than an award rule related to an experiment in modular or compressed 
schedules), and grant and loan maximum award amounts. However, the 
Secretary has the authority to approve experiments in a wide range of 
other areas. Through this effort, we expect to develop creative 
experiments that align with the President's plan to promote innovations 
that increase quality and reduce costs, while strengthening the 
programmatic and fiscal integrity of the Title IV, HEA programs.
    While the Title IV, HEA programs help make a postsecondary 
education possible for millions of students, their costs to the 
American taxpayer are considerable. Accordingly, Congress and the 
Secretary have an interest in protecting the integrity of the programs, 
and they do so by establishing statutory and regulatory requirements. 
Many of these requirements are also designed to provide protections and 
safeguards to students and families, including by ensuring that they 
are fully informed of their rights and responsibilities as applicants 
and recipients of assistance from the Title IV, HEA programs and that 
they have the information needed to make informed decisions.
    At this time, we seek the assistance of postsecondary educational 
institutions and other parties in identifying aspects of the Title IV, 
HEA programs for testing alternative approaches that could result in 
stronger academic or career outcomes for students, especially for 
students from low-income backgrounds and those who struggle to succeed 
academically. We also seek suggestions on evaluation plans that will 
allow for the measurement of the effectiveness of these alternative 
approaches.
    We understand that the ability to construct rigorous experimental 
or evaluation designs is a specialized skill not expected of most 
financial aid professionals and others who may submit suggestions for 
experiments. Therefore, as described below, submissions do not need to 
fully detail the proposed experiment and corresponding evaluation plan.
    This invitation for suggestions is a part of the Secretary's 
continuing effort to improve Title IV, HEA program effectiveness in 
partnership with the higher education community. We have benefited 
tremendously from the community's past contributions and look forward 
to working with the institutions that will participate in the ESI.

Invitation for Suggestions

    Through this notice, we seek ideas from postsecondary educational 
institutions and other parties for innovative experiments that will 
improve postsecondary student outcomes while maintaining or improving 
Title IV, HEA program accountability. Institutions and others, 
including businesses, philanthropies, and State agencies and offices, 
are encouraged to collaborate in the development of proposals. We will 
consider the outcomes of the experiments when proposing changes to the 
Title IV, HEA program regulations or, if appropriate, in legislative 
proposals to the Congress.

[[Page 73519]]

    We are particularly interested in experiments that are designed to 
improve student persistence and academic success, result in shorter 
time to degree, including by allowing students to advance through 
educational courses and programs at their own pace by demonstrating 
academic achievement, and reduce reliance on student loans. Subject to 
the statutory restrictions and limitations of the Secretary's 
experimental site authority noted above, examples of areas that could 
be considered for experiments include:
    [ssquf] Allowing flexibility in how institutions provide Federal 
student aid to students enrolled in competency-based education programs 
where progress is measured on the basis of how much has been learned, 
rather than measures of time;
    [ssquf] Allowing high school students to receive Federal student 
aid for enrollment in postsecondary coursework without a reduction in 
the amount of State and local support provided for such enrollment;
    [ssquf] Allowing Federal student aid to be used to pay for 
assessments of prior learning and other processes to evaluate students' 
knowledge.
    We will require institutions that participate in the experiments to 
provide data on the outcomes of the proposed alternatives. Further, 
experiments must not only measure the results of the alternative 
approach but also provide reasonable assessments of what would have 
happened under the existing requirements.
    Submissions need not be longer than two or three pages and should 
address the following:
    [ssquf] The specific statutory or regulatory requirement(s) 
relating to the Title IV, HEA programs that would be waived or modified 
to test the alternative approach.
    [ssquf] A description of the recommended alternative approach, and 
how the proposed alternative approach avoids or minimizes challenges 
imposed by the existing requirements.
    [ssquf] A description of how the experiment could be evaluated, 
including identifying outcome measures and ways to collect comparative 
data with respect to the current statutory or regulatory requirements 
that will be waived as a part of the experiment.
    It is not necessary to submit fully developed experimental or 
evaluation plans.
    Based on the submissions and our own input, and in collaboration 
with the submitting institution or other parties, we will develop the 
final experimental designs and evaluation plans for each experiment. We 
may also develop experiments in addition to those proposed in response 
to this request.
    Accessible Format: Individuals with disabilities can obtain this 
document in an accessible format (e.g., braille, large print, 
audiotape, or compact disc) on request to the program contact person 
listed under FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT.

Electronic Access to This Document

    The official version of this document is the document published in 
the Federal Register. Free Internet access to the official edition of 
the Federal Register and the Code of Federal Regulations is available 
via the Federal Digital System at: www.gpo.gov/fdsys. At this site you 
can view this document, as well as all other documents of this 
Department published in the Federal Register, in text or Adobe Portable 
Document Format (PDF). To use PDF you must have Adobe Acrobat Reader, 
which is available free at the site.
    You may also access documents of the Department published in the 
Federal Register by using the article search feature at: 
www.federalregister.gov. Specifically, through the advanced search 
feature at this site, you can limit your search to documents published 
by the Department.

    Program Authority:  20 U.S.C. 1094a(b).

    Delegation of Authority: The Secretary of Education has delegated 
authority to Brenda Dann-Messier for the Office of Postsecondary 
Education, to perform the functions and duties of the Assistant 
Secretary for Postsecondary Education.

    Dated: December 3, 2013.
Brenda Dann-Messier,
Acting Assistant Secretary for Postsecondary Education.
[FR Doc. 2013-29213 Filed 12-5-13; 8:45 am]
BILLING CODE 4000-01-P
 


Last Modified: 12/05/2013