US Department of Education Principal Office Functional Statements
Office of Postsecondary Education


The Deputy Assistant Secretary for Policy, Planning and Innovation (PPI) serves as the principal advisor to the Assistant Secretary for Postsecondary Education in policy development, strategic planning, innovation, policy research and analysis in the area of postsecondary education, and accreditation issues. The Deputy Assistant Secretary for PPI provides overall leadership for, oversees, and coordinates postsecondary education policy development and implementation.

Policy, Planning and Innovation provides an integrated and structured approach for the identification and development of policies and innovative practices designed to improve the performance of federal postsecondary education programs, and, with the Assistant Secretary for OPE provides leadership in the postsecondary education arena. PPI ensures an integrated and consistent direction in the development of postsecondary education and program policy. The programs for which PPI has responsibility include those administered by the Office of Postsecondary Education (OPE) and Federal Student Aid (FSA).

The Deputy Assistant Secretary for PPI leads the development of OPE policy through close coordination with the Assistant Secretary for OPE, the Chief Operating Officer for FSA the Deputy Assistant Secretary for HEP, the Deputy Assistant Secretary for International and Foreign Language Education, as well as with senior agency officials (e.g., Office of the Under Secretary), other federal agencies (e.g., OMB, General Accounting Office, Department of Labor), the immediate staff of the President, the Congress, and the postsecondary education community.

The Deputy Assistant Secretary for PPI leads OPE efforts in strategic planning, and impact assessments to ensure alignment of program planning and delivery strategies with overall policy direction and ensures the responsiveness of postsecondary education programs to customers and constituents.

The DAS provides policy leadership and develops the postsecondary education and OPE policy agenda and establishes policy direction for ED’s postsecondary education programs while working closely with senior agency officials senior managers of other federal agencies, the Congress, and program constituents and other stakeholders in the development of postsecondary education policy. The DAS for PPI ensures consistency and integration of OPE policy across programs while providing policy direction; program regulations; and monitoring the alignment of program regulations with the overall OPE policy agenda.

The DAS also serves as the lead for development of postsecondary education legislative initiatives; and develops annual program budget plans and policies.

The Deputy Assistant Secretary for PPI provides overall direction, coordination, and leadership for the following:

Policy Coordination, Development and Accreditation Service; and
Strategic Planning, Analysis, and Initiatives Service.

The Immediate Office of the Deputy Assistant Secretary also manages the operating budget and human resources of PPI; including salaries and expenses, budget development and management, human resources and performance management, employee development and training, staff and workload allocations.


The Policy Coordination, Development and Accreditation Service provides support, information, and recommendations to the Deputy Assistant Secretary on developing policy for postsecondary education. The Groups are responsible for the formulation of postsecondary education policy, policy for OPE programs, program budget formulation, development of legislative proposals, and accreditation.


The Policy Coordination Group is responsible for ensuring the effective coordination of OPE policy through the management of the regulatory, budgetary, and legislative processes within OPE.

Working with the Deputy Assistant Secretaries, Service Area Directors, and Program Development Group Directors in HEP, the Policy Coordination Group:

  • Formulates program budget estimates for the postsecondary education programs; coordinates, reviews, and recommends final approval of program budget justifications for ED’s postsecondary education programs for submission to OMB and the Congress; prepares materials and guides the process for supplemental appropriations, justifications, and input to Congressional budget resolutions, including justifications, and program impact estimates for proposed legislative or regulatory initiatives.
  • Prepares testimony for ED witnesses on higher education policy, and budget issues, and responds to inquiries from the Congress and others regarding postsecondary education policy and budget issues.
  • Provides authoritative advice on policy matters that impact the delivery and oversight of postsecondary education policy including the development of documents (including "Dear Colleague" letters, program bulletins, and Federal Register notices) needed to support the implementation of postsecondary education programs.
  • Coordinate the review of closing date notices (CDN) and other Federal Register notices for OPE programs.
  • Develop a regulatory agenda and plan for the programs administered by OPE and Federal Student Aid and coordinate the development of regulations.
  • Manages the regulatory process, including negotiated rulemaking.
  • Coordinates the review of legislative proposals affecting postsecondary education developed by executive branch agencies and proposed legislation pending in Congress that may impact postsecondary education institutions or students.
  • Manages data collection and other contracts necessary to carry out the responsibilities of PPI including the campus security, equity in athletics and accreditation data collections.


Working with the Deputy Assistant Secretaries, Service Area Directors, and Program Development Group Directors in HEP along with staff from Federal Student Aid, the Policy Development Group:

  • Reviews research and analysis on postsecondary education to inform policy development;
  • Monitors program implementation to ensure alignment with the overall OPE policy agenda and develops legislative, budgetary, or regulatory strategies for making needed adjustments;
  • Identifies the need for new legislative initiatives and guides the development of such legislative proposals to improve the effectiveness of postsecondary education programs; works with the postsecondary education community, other federal agencies, and senior agency officials in the identification of legislative issues and the development of legislative proposals;
  • Develops regulations using the appropriate approach to regulating either through negotiations or customary public comment rulemaking;
  • Develops sub regulatory guidance particularly for the Federal Student Aid programs.


The Accreditation Group administers the Department's review process of accrediting agencies and State approval agencies for postsecondary vocational education and nurse education seeking to obtain initial and continued recognition by the Secretary of Education. The Accreditation Group carries out the Secretary responsibility to publish a list of nationally recognized accrediting agencies and associations which the Secretary determines to be reliable authorities as to the quality of education and training offered by postsecondary institutions and programs. In addition, the Accreditation Group reviews the standards that foreign countries use to accredit their medical schools and of Federal agencies and institutions seeking degree-granting authority.

The Accreditation Group:

  • Implements statutory and regulatory criteria governing the recognition of State approval agencies and of national and regional institutional and specialized accrediting associations and agencies, as reliable authorities concerning the quality of education and training offered by postsecondary institutions or programs within their respective scopes of operation.
  • Evaluates petitions for initial recognition, renewal of recognition, and scope of recognition by accrediting bodies and State approval agencies.
  • Conducts on-site reviews of accrediting agencies; observing agencies in the process of conducting on-site accreditation visits of institutions and programs; and observing accrediting agencies' decision-making activities.
  • Reviews annual reports of recognized agencies and interim reports required by agencies.
  • Monitors recognized accrediting agencies for continued compliance with the Criteria for Recognition and investigating third-party complaints.
  • Evaluates the standards and processes used by foreign countries to accredit/approve medical schools for comparability to US to standards used to accredit medical schools in the United States and presenting the analyses to the National Committee on Foreign Medical Education and Accreditation for review and decision.
  • Analyzes applications of Federal agencies and institutions seeking degree-granting authority.
  • Maintains a close liaison with accrediting agencies to obtain information on institutional and program eligibility, and providing this information to the Office of Federal Student Aid.
  • Provides consultative services and general information to accrediting agencies and associations, State approval agencies, individual institutions, and other Federal agencies of the activities of the Accreditation Group; and provides them with assistance in resolving their accreditation and eligibility related questions.
  • Maintains a close relationship with the State Liaison and Compliance Group in HEP to foster information sharing about State authorization, licensing, and other State-level functions related to postsecondary education.
  • Publishes the official list of nationally recognized accrediting agencies.


The Strategic Planning, Analysis, and Initiatives Service provides analytic support to ensure valid, accurate, consistent and database information to inform postsecondary education policy development activities. The Service performs analysis of ED’s postsecondary education programs, assessing program performance against policy and budget and expectations; analyzes program trends to inform policy directions and plans; identifies data needed for such analytic purposes; coordinates program policy analysis and research with other agencies and the community; and prepares studies and other reports regarding postsecondary education program performance. The Service develops program-forecasting models that support postsecondary education policy and budget development.


The Strategic Planning Group (SPD) provides leadership in implementing strategic planning activities, including the requirements of the Government Performance and Results Act, in OPE. The Group is headed by a Director who is responsible for leading and coordinating OPE's strategic planning efforts and related activities and coordinating with the Office of Inspector General to monitor all audits.

In consultation with agency officials and OPE senior managers, the Group develops an OPE-wide strategic plan that integrates policy planning, operations analysis, budget and resource planning, service delivery, and customer information.

The Group analyzes legislative and stakeholder requirements, strategic options, and research results, and coordinates with other OPE and community research entities to integrate findings into OPE's strategic planning activities and overall policy framework. SPD conducts independent assessments and surveys, as appropriate, to support other activities related to strategic planning. SPD provides findings and recommendations to the Service Director. The staff is also responsible for OPE’s Strategic Monitoring Plan and for training staff on monitoring and assessment issues.

In performing its responsibilities, the Strategic Planning Group:

  • Coordinates OPE's analyses of critical indicators to identify strategic program directions; determines whether changes in service delivery strategies are warranted; and measures progress in meeting organizational goals.
  • Develops management reporting processes to monitor the alignment of near-term management strategies and long-term strategic goals; reviews reports prepared for the Service Director to determine implications for strategic planning.
  • Provides leadership in designing, developing and assessing pilot projects to test alternative management, performance accountability, and service delivery strategies.
  • Collects and interprets data and other information from external sources and performs statistical analyses with data from constituents, the postsecondary education community, other government agencies, and private industry.
  • Develops the OPE Strategic Monitoring Plan and prepares an annual report on its implementation.
  • Supports fiscal monitoring and provides appropriate training to program officers.
  • Develops appropriate measures for OPE’s organizational assessment and tracks OPE’s progress toward completing those measures successfully.
  • Conducts training relative to the mission of the Group
  • Assists in the development of OPE’s Human Capital Plan, in coordination with other affected offices.
  • Develops and implements a comprehensive staff training and professional development program for PPI staff with an eye toward expansion throughout ED. Identifies key issue and topics to be addresses, designs strategies for specific staff groups as well as all staff and identifies and secures trainers and presenters.


In performing its responsibilities, the Policy Analysis and Forecasting Group:

  • Analyzes and evaluates the critical program and population trends, trends in eligible student populations, trends in postsecondary education, institutional and administrative characteristics and practices, economic indicators, etc. for use in developing policy and assessing the effectiveness of program structure and functioning against policy, budget goals, and objectives; determines the data necessary for these and other analytic tasks it performs
  • Develops and maintains models to forecast the effects of costs of key indicators or proposed regulatory or legislative changes across the Department of Education’s postsecondary education programs, and develops annual or periodic updates to existing forecasting models for each of the major programs using various costing assumptions; coordinates its costs modeling and forecasting activities with the Policy and Budget Development Staff in the development of budget requests and justifications for postsecondary education programs.
  • Evaluates the impact and effectiveness of policy changes made to postsecondary education programs; identifies issues for analysis in support of policy development; and, coordinates OPE program-related research with other segments of the postsecondary education community.
  • Prepares postsecondary education policy-related research papers for publication and/or presentation at postsecondary education conferences; and prepares analytic reports for senior agency officials and other federal managers and the Congress.
  • Assesses and measures program impacts for postsecondary education programs; develops and implements appropriate studies in coordination with other stakeholders; working with the Deputy Assistant Secretary, for PPI, the Chief Operating Officer for FSA, Deputy Assistant Secretary for HEP, the Assistant Secretary for OPE, the Deputy Assistant Secretary for International and Foreign Language Education, and senior agency officials, federal oversight agencies such as OMB, and the postsecondary education community, develops plans for the assessment of postsecondary education programs to determine their effectiveness in meeting legislative goals, agency policy goals, and long-term postsecondary education needs in the nation.
  • Leads the development of early warning reports to assess actual demands for program dollars against fiscal plans, and uses results to re-calibrate estimation M models.
  • Performs activities as they relate to organizational assessment and fulfills the responsibilities of the Chief Management Officer for the Office of Postsecondary Education
  • Directs and/or conducts studies in response to special requests from the Congress, the President, the Secretary, Assistant Secretary, and OMB, etc. These studies vary in duration, but may often be of an urgent nature, having specified completion dates and are of national scope and importance.
  • Serves as OPE authority on analytic and evaluative methods and provides OPE-wide consultation upon request.


In performing its responsibilities, the Strategic Initiatives Group:

  • Undertakes, at the direction of the Assistant Secretary for Postsecondary Education and the Deputy Assistant Secretary for Policy, Planning and Innovation, special projects to support postsecondary education programs and policy development.
  • Supports Department and administration policy direction to improve alignment with K-12 education, enhance college affordability and completion, improve consumer choice with respect to an individual’s postsecondary education alternatives, and ensure sustainability of the levels of educational attainment of the nation’s adult population.
  • Provides staff direction and leadership to the process of dismantling the guaranty agency and private lender based Federal student loan programs while protecting the Federal fiscal interest in the outstanding FFEL portfolio.
  • Performs specialized non-recurring analytic projects and analyses to guide policy and legislative proposal development and to guide the development of long-term postsecondary education and postsecondary education policy.
  • Identifies and measures indicators of postsecondary education program performance, and assesses the impact of postsecondary education programs. Based upon these program assessments, the Service identifies needed changes to the structure and functions of postsecondary education programs to enhance and improve their effectiveness.

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Last Modified: 03/23/2011