Publication Date: October 28, 2009

Posted Date: October 28, 2009

Subject: Federal Student Financial Assistance Programs Under Title IV of the Higher Education Act of 1965, as Amended

FR Type: Notice

[Federal Register: October 28, 2009 (Volume 74, Number 207)]
[Notices]               
[Page 55542-55543]
From the Federal Register Online via GPO Access [wais.access.gpo.gov]
[DOCID:fr28oc09-43]                         
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DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION
 
Federal Student Financial Assistance Programs Under Title IV of 
the Higher Education Act of 1965, as Amended
AGENCY: Department of Education.
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), or consortiums of such institutions, to propose 
ideas for institutionally based experiments designed to test new ways 
of administering the student financial assistance programs authorized 
by title IV of the HEA (the Title IV, HEA programs). This effort is 
called the Experimental Sites Initiative (ESI). This notice is the 
first of two notices that the Secretary will publish regarding the ESI.
    Under section 487A(b) of the HEA, the Secretary has the authority 
to grant waivers from specific Title IV, HEA statutory or regulatory 
requirements to allow institutions to test alternative methods for 
administering the Title IV, HEA programs. Such institutions are 
referred to in the HEA as ``experimental sites''. The Secretary seeks 
suggestions on how best to use this authority to reduce burden in the 
administration of the Title IV, HEA programs.
    Consistent with section 487A(b) of the HEA, the Secretary cannot 
waive requirements related to need analysis, award rules, and grant and 
loan maximum award amounts. However, the Secretary anticipates 
approving experiments in a wide variety of other areas. The Secretary 
is particularly interested in suggestions for experiments that might 
produce stronger academic outcomes for students, such as improved 
persistence, shorter time to degree, and reduced reliance on outside 
work.
    After reviewing the suggestions submitted by institutions as a 
result of this notice and constructing an evaluation design for 
approved experiments, the Secretary will publish a second notice in the 
Federal Register announcing approved experiments as well as the 
implementation and evaluative criteria for each approved experiment. 
The subsequent notice will invite institutions to apply to participate 
in one or more of those experiments, with preference given to the 
institution(s) that submitted the original suggestion.
DATES: Suggestions must be submitted no later than December 18, 2009 in 
order to ensure consideration for inclusion in the first phase of ESI.
ADDRESSES: Submissions must be submitted as an attachment to an e-mail 
sent to the following e-mail 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 electronic mail message sent to the e-
mail address provided in the ADDRESSES section of this notice. We ask 
that submitters include the name and address of the institution that is 
submitting the suggestion and the name, title, mailing and e-mail 
addresses, and telephone number of a contact person for the institution 
or consortium. If the submission is from a consortium of institutions, 
we ask that the submitter list all institutions but only one contact 
person.
FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Warren Farr, U.S. Department of 
Education, Federal Student Aid, Room 43H2, 830 First Street, NE., 
Washington, DC 20002. E-mail 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
    Through ESI, we seek to experiment with ways to both improve 
services to students and free institutions and students from 
administrative burdens, while maintaining (or increasing) the
financial and programmatic 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. Therefore, Congress and the 
Secretary have a justifiable interest in protecting the integrity of 
the programs and do so by establishing statutory and regulatory 
requirements. In many instances, these requirements also provide 
students with protections and safeguards. They also ensure that 
students and families are fully informed of their rights and 
responsibilities as applicants and recipients of assistance from the 
Title IV, HEA programs and have the information needed to make informed 
decisions.
    At this time, we seek the assistance of institutions in identifying 
areas in the administration of the Title IV, HEA programs that could 
benefit from testing alternative ways of accomplishing the underlying 
goals of the current statutory or regulatory requirements. We also seek 
suggestions on how these alternatives could be evaluated.
    We understand that the ability to construct rigorous experimental 
designs is a specialized skill not expected of most financial aid 
professionals. Therefore, we are not asking institutions that submit 
suggestions for experiments to prepare full project designs, including 
evaluation designs. In collaboration with the submitting institution, 
we will develop the final experimental designs and evaluation plans for 
each approved experiment before we invite institutions to participate 
in the experiments. The designs of all experiments must measure not 
only the results of the alternative approach, but also provide 
reasonable measures of what would have happened under the existing 
requirements.
    We also may develop experiments in addition to those proposed by 
institutions and we will invite institutions to participate in those 
experiments as well as any submitted by institutions.
    We will require institutions that participate in the experiments to 
provide data about the effectiveness of the proposed alternatives. For 
this reason, we are interested in suggestions about methodologies that 
could be used to collect comparable information about current statutory 
requirements. This comparable data could be based upon the treatment of 
a control group of students at the institution who are subject to the 
current requirement or collected from other, similar institutions whose 
students are subject to the current requirement.
    This invitation for suggestions is a part of the Secretary's 
continuing effort to improve Title IV, HEA program administration in 
partnership with the higher education community. We have benefited 
tremendously from the community's contributions through the negotiated 
rulemaking process and in other ways and we look forward to working 
with the institutions that participate in the ESI.
Invitation for Suggestions
    We hope that this invitation will encourage institutions to suggest 
innovative strategies that improve postsecondary student outcomes, 
relieve unnecessary burden, and maintain program accountability. We 
will consider the outcomes of these experimental strategies when 
proposing changes to the Title IV, HEA program regulations or, if 
appropriate, in legislative proposals to the Congress.
    We note that the results of earlier experiments under the ESI 
contributed to a statutory change that relaxed the 30-day delay 
requirement for the disbursement of loan funds to first-year, first-
time borrowers, and eased the requirement that single-term loans be 
disbursed in multiple installments.
    The flexibilities tested by a consortium of community colleges also 
resulted in a statutory change in the HEA regarding the Ability to 
Benefit (ATB) requirements. Specifically, the HEA now provides another 
alternative for students without a high school diploma, or its 
equivalent, to become eligible to receive Title IV, HEA student aid 
funds.
    Under ESI, we seek innovative approaches in a variety of different 
areas related to the administration of the Title IV, HEA programs. We 
also encourage institutions to collaborate in the development process 
of proposals. We are interested in receiving suggestions that address 
the following:
     The specific statutory or regulatory requirement(s) 
relating to the Title IV, HEA programs the institution or consortium 
seeks relief from in order to test its alternative approach.
     The perceived objective of, or reason for, the current 
requirement.
     How an alternative approach avoids or minimizes problems 
with the existing requirement and still addresses its objective.
     Additional benefits from the proposed alternative 
approach.
    Because we must demonstrate that the experiments we implement have 
the potential to improve efficiency while at the same time protecting 
the integrity of Title IV, HEA programs, we are especially interested 
in experiments that integrate scientifically valid evaluation 
methodologies into the suggested experiments. Thus, we would appreciate 
receiving suggestions that address the following components for 
evaluating the experiments:
     Measuring the undesirable aspects of complying with the 
current regulatory or statutory requirement identified.
     Measuring how well the objective or reason behind the 
current regulatory or statutory requirement identified is being met now 
and how it will be met in the experiment.
     Measuring any additional benefits associated with a 
proposed experiment.
     The kind of data we should collect from the institution or 
consortium once we select sites for participation in the experiments.
    Reports on past experiments under the ESI can be found on the 
Experimental Sites Web site at https://experimentalsites.ed.gov/exp/reports.html. 
The Secretary encourages new experiments in areas other than those 
previously tried.
Electronic Access to This Document
    You can view this document, as well as all other documents of this 
Department published in the Federal Register, in text or portable 
document format (PDF) on the Internet at the following site: 
http://www.ed.gov/news/fedregister/index.html.
    To use PDF you must have Adobe Acrobat Reader, which is available 
free at this site. If you have questions about using PDF, call the U.S. 
Government Printing Office (GPO), toll free, at 1-888-293-6498; or in 
the Washington, DC area at (202) 512-1530.
    Note:  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 on GPO Access at: 
http://www.access.gpo.gov/nara/index.html.
    Program Authority: 20 U.S.C. 1094a.
    Delegation of Authority: The Secretary of Education has delegated 
authority to Daniel T. Madzelan, Director, Forecasting and Policy 
Analysis for the Office of Postsecondary Education, to perform the 
functions and duties of the Assistant Secretary for Postsecondary 
Education.
    Dated: October 23, 2009.
Daniel T. Madzelan,
Director, Forecasting and Policy Analysis.
[FR Doc. E9-25973 Filed 10-27-09; 8:45 am]
BILLING CODE 4000-01-P

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