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The Education Department outlined in a series of issue papers released Tuesday how it would update the regulations for accreditation, state authorizing agencies and other policy areas to better protect students.

Tuesday’s announcement of the issue papers and list of negotiators who will review the department’s proposals is the latest step in a lengthy process known as negotiated rule making. This round of rule making kicked off in April 2023. 

A committee representing 15 constituent groups will meet next week, from Jan. 8 to 11, to review the department’s proposals on accreditation, state authorization, distance education, return of Title IV funds and cash management. 

Department officials said in a news release that the department wants to make sure accrediting and state authorization agencies are holding institutions accountable. The department is looking in part to limit who can serve on the governing bodies of entities that oversee state authorization reciprocity agreements.

Proposals for the other topics would change how colleges collect money from students who withdraw from the institutions and ensure students receive the financial aid they are entitled to, according to the release. A proposal on distance education would restrict the use of asynchronous education in clock-hour programs.

“The Biden-Harris Administration remains committed to ensuring that higher education institutions and programs are held accountable for delivering on their promise of a better future for students and our financial aid programs are helping students accomplish their goals,” U.S. under secretary of education James Kvaal said in the release. “These efforts are another step in improving the higher education system and ensuring colleges are providing all students with high-quality opportunities for upward social and economic mobility.”

The department also is planning to open up federal TRIO programs, which help underserved student groups get to and through college, to undocumented students as long as they are enrolled in high school—a long-sought goal of TRIO directors, advocacy organizations and higher ed groups.