Updates on TPS & TPP

WCET Conference as a collection of great policy minds provided the ability to check assumptions

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I just got back from the WCET Conference in New Orleans, with fond remembrances of Cochon, Rebirth, and N7 - those restaurants kept me well-fed. The WCET conference includes some of the best regulatory policy discussions of any education conference, and there were several great panel discussions on recent federal and accreditor-based regulatory actions. I have to admit to being surprised at the unanimity of sentiment, both from panelists and attendees, about the negative repercussions of Gainful Employment, TPS, Professional Licensure, State Authorization, etc, etc. WCET attendees tend to heavily represent those on campus who have to interpret and implement rules - real feet on the ground - and I didn’t hear one argument about recent regulatory actions being well-crafted to avoid unintended consequences. There was general agreement with the stated intentions of regulations, but not the actual details and impact.

When you combine the conference panels with the many hallway (and bar) conversations, I had a great chance to test some of the assumptions behind my recent posts.

Contrary View on TPS in 2024

My post on Monday morning argued that we shouldn’t expect a revival of the third-party servicer (TPS) expansion guidance before the November 2024 elections.

Moving the earliest possible release into 2025, along with a timeline of not making the new guidance effective for at least six months after issuance, means that any new TPS expansion guidance would hit in the middle of a hotly-contest national election. And TPS is very, very unpopular if you are not receiving Arnold Ventures funding. Importantly, TPS expansion guidance is more specifically unpopular with the higher education community - institutions and associations representing these institutions - that are key to Democrat prospects.

I believe, and I have heard from one reliable source, that ED cannot and will not release TPS expansion guidance in this timeframe, and therefore it is dead next year as well. This guidance will only revive at the federal level in 2025, if the Democrats win the election.

Admittedly there is some dot-connecting involved in the specific prospects for next year, and this was one point I wanted to test and find alternate views at the conference. I have not changed my opinion from the post, but I want to share the most credible, well-reasoned counter-argument from this research.

The argument is that the US Department of Education (ED) needs to implement some real action to rein in OPM companies in this term, and that ED would lose credibility if they do not update guidance on TPS or the bundled services exception early in 2024. This newsletter shares a lot of information looking at foundations and think tank activists aligning with ED activists, but the congressional pressure is also critical to this argument. Senators Warren, Murray, Smith, and Brown along with Representatives DeLauro and Scott have written letters publicly pushing ED to take action, now. This political pressure has not gone away, and ED is caught in the middle. Virtually the entire higher education community is against TPS expansion, and many nonprofit institutional leadership are against removing the bundled services agreement, but the OPM regulatory details do not provide arguments that affect the general (as in voting) public. Congressional leaders and media-savvy activists have a stronger connection to voter sentiment. The net effect is that there are reasons for ED to take action in 2024.

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