On EdTech Newsletter
Updating my thinking about ED plans for 2024
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In late October, I projected that third-party servicer (TPS) expansion guidance was dead at least through 2024. The TPS guidance issued last February was aimed at reining in the Online Program Management (OPM) market but was broad enough to micromanage and impact all of EdTech and even prevent international companies from operation in the US. That guidance was pulled back in April. From October:
This issue gets at the heart of one of the two biggest EdTech stories of the year. Namely, will ED and its Arnold Ventures-funded allies back off on its regulatory activism to focus on protecting wins, or will they double down.
While the expanded TPS guidance has not yet been released, I now believe the logic behind my projection needs to be updated. ED and its allies are clearly doubling down on regulatory activism in 2024.
Going back to the October post, this is the section where I misread the situation.
Updated View - NegReg
I’ll address in future posts the specifics of the continued regulatory activism and the likely impacts on EdTech and on higher education institutions in general, but there are two revelations that are key to understanding this year’s activity.
The first is the early January negotiated rulemaking session, best described ahead of time in this Inside Higher Ed article.
After the January 8 - 11 sessions, WCET covered the impacts in its detailed post.
I believe this analysis is accurate - the impacts could indeed be “huge” if ED’s incoming positions largely end up in revised regulations and guidance. But the intentions are clear.
There were, of course, signs in 2023 that this round of rulemaking could be significant. One is the choice of non-federal negotiators selected for the Program Integrity and Institutional Quality topics. 18 of the 27 (primary and alternate) negotiators were required to come from higher ed institutions, accreditors, and states. Of the remaining nine slots allocated to outside groups - four of them are from the Arnold Ventures-funded coalition. The Century Foundation, UnidosUS, National Consumer Law Center, and Veterans Education Success.
And with the topic of gutting Inclusive / Equitable Access, there is additional billionaire foundation-funded activist participation, as the Michelson 20MM Foundation is behind those revisions, with The Century Foundation and Young Invincibles as negotiators. The proposed language would gut many college and university attempts to fund sustainable OER initiatives.
Five out of nine outside groups for these sessions in total come from activist allies.
Updated View - Politics
The other revelation is from the one area where ED has separated from Arnold Ventures recommendations - student loan debt forgiveness. AV recommended that ED back off on those efforts and focus on solidifying wins. In fact, ED is being directed to accelerate loan forgiveness efforts, and President Biden is campaigning on the topic as described at Politico.
Regardless of whether you agree with the approach or not, the message is clear. ED is doubling down on its regulatory activism, both in seeking ways to forgive student loans and in increasing federal oversight power and control over all of higher education.
It’s regrettable that regulatory activity is such a major story recently for higher education writ large and EdTech lately, but there you have it. Expect much more moving forward.
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