Reauthorization of the Higher Education Act
In its proposal for reauthorization of the Higher Education Act (HEA), the Administration is seeking to broaden opportunities for distance learners by expanding eligibility for student aid and encouraging innovative uses of technology by institutions and other education providers, while ensuring the integrity of these courses and programs. These proposals reflect changing demographics in postsecondary education and new ways institutions are delivering higher education, while ensuring that students get what they pay for and taxpayer dollars are well spent.
According to a recent study by the National Center for Education Statistics, in 1995, 33% of all higher education institutions offered distance education to more than 700,000 students, and the interest in providing technology-based education continues to grow rapidly. Institutions are examining new ways to reach out to students, including working parents, workers that seek additional training to advance, and students with disabilities. Distance learning provides opportunities to individuals who face such time and place constraints. The Administration will also pursue different ways -- including working closely with accrediting agencies and State licensing agencies -- to learn more about distance education and to gain experience in effectively managing and monitoring the student aid programs in a technology-based learning environment.
Student Aid (Title IV) Proposal
The Administration's reauthorization proposal for distance education broadens opportunities for distance learners by expanding institutional and student aid eligibility, eliminating the different treatments in cost of attendance between distance learners and on-campus learners, while ensuring quality through accreditation. Specifically, the Administration is proposing to:
As noted above, a student must be enrolled at least half-time in order to include the living allowance in the need determination. The Administration is not proposing any change to this requirement. In other words, a student enrolled in only one course would not be provided a living allowance regardless of whether the student took the course by distance or on-campus.
For example, Mary has income of $5,000, lives at home and takes classes full-time at the local community college. Alice also lives at home, has the same income, is enrolled in the same program, but takes all of her classes over the Internet. Both Mary and Alice are dependent students and there is no contribution from their parents' income or assets in the determination of need. Tuition and other education expenses for both students is $1,500. For the 1998-99 award year,, Mary would be eligible for a $2,750 Pell Grant while Alice would only be eligible for a $1,300 Pell Grant. The difference reflects the fact that Mary is allowed a $1,500 cost of living allowance in her aid calculation while Alice -- because she is a distance learner -- is not. Under the Department's proposal, Alice would be eligible for a $2,750 Pell Grant, the same amount as Mary.
Learning Anytime Anywhere Partnerships
In addition, the Administration is proposing a new $30 million competitive grant program that would support pilot projects using distance learning technologies and other innovations to enhance the delivery of postsecondary education and lifelong learning opportunities to students of all ages. The Learning Anytime Anywhere Partnership Program would encourage partnerships between educational institutions (including four-year institutions, community colleges, technical institutes, adult literacy and education programs, and regional vocational/technical schools that serve adults), community-based organizations, software and technology developers, learning assessment specialists, and private industry employers in an effort to deliver a valuable and quality education to a variety of different kinds of students who face time and place constraints. Projects in this initiative will emphasize the development of innovative ways to ensure quality and measure student achievement that are appropriate to distance education.-###-