The second round of negotiations for Team IV (Discretionary Grants) concluded on Friday with progress made toward tentative agreement on a number of issues, but some important ones unresolved. The team used updated issue papers and draft regulatory language provided by the Department as the basis for its discussions.
The committee spent the first day of the meeting discussing GEAR UP issues. The team reached tentative agreement on the issues of priority, funding rules, the revised definition of a partnership, and changes to matching requirements. In looking at the issue of duration of awards, discussion focused on the impact of a seventh year on state grant models, the number of students served, and the services that should be provided. Members noted the need to ensure that services enhance those provided by postsecondary institutions. The committee also spend time discussing the importance of collaboration and maintaining flexibility. Concern was also expressed about the cost per student of providing services during a seventh year.
The HEOA added new language regarding the waiver of matching requirements. The committee discussed the waiver process, factors ED should consider when determining if a significant hardship exists for a grantee, the duration of a waiver, and if the amount of the match covered by the waiver should be capped at a certain percentage. The committee also discussed factors ED should look at when considering whether or not a grantee has exhausted all revenues for replacing matching funds.
While the committee and ED agreed on a philosophical level that grantees should make continuation scholarships, federal funds are not likely to be available to support awards. Members suggested making the regulations more restrictive and awarding prior experience points to grantees that are able to make continuation scholarships. While scholarship funds must be obliged, they do not need to be administered by a third party. The committee also spent time discussing the return of unused scholarship funds and reporting requirements after the end of the grant period. This requirement applies to all grantees. The Department is proposing an annual report on scholarship funds after the end of the grant period. Scholarship funds must be spent within six years of the end of the grant; the committee suggested starting the clock based upon students' scheduled graduation date. The committee also suggested timelines for returning funds at the end of the six year period ranging from 45 days to 3 years. The group also discussed how to manage the process, covering reporting costs, and adding information to the grant application.
The final GEAR UP issue was continuity of services, which ensures that students served by a GEAR UP project receive services through the completion of secondary school, even if the grant has ended. Some committee members believe this is an unfunded mandate, and that ED should clarify the obligation by stating the source of the funding (non-federal), emphasizing that awarding of all funds is competitive, and by providing more information in the application.
The TRIO programs were the focus of the second day and part of the third day of discussions. The committee reached tentative agreement on the issue of number of applications (branch campuses and different populations) foster and homeless youth, and required and permissible services; all other issues remain open.
The committee still has concerns with a number of proposed definitions, especially that of student with a disability and high risk for academic failure. The committee requested that ED look at the definition of first generation as it relates to baccalaureate degrees from other countries. Members expressed concern that the definition of participant contained a minimum number of services to be provided.
Due to the changes made by the HEOA, the committee reviewed the Talent Search regulations in great detail. The Department adopted many of the changes suggested by a sub-committee. The committee spent time discussing the issue of tracking completion, especially in relation to cost, methods, and the difficulty of staying in contact with students. Before ED could determine it is not practicable to implement tracking, it needs data from the community justifying the move. Some committee members noted that tracking is good for accountability.
In discussing outcome criteria, the Department made it clear that the statute now requires grantees to track completion. The committee also discussed the impact on prior experience points, and how to address situations where a grantee fails to serve the number of students identified in the application.
ED took advantage of negotiations as a good opportunity to update the regulations of all the TRIO programs to reflect HEOA changes and current administrative practices. The committee spent part of the afternoon of the second day and the morning of the third day to review program regulations in detail.
On Friday, the committee reviewed the last TRIO issue, the proposed review process for unsuccessful applicants. The Department provided a conceptual overview of the process before members made comments. While members appreciated the effort the Department put into drafting regulations for the review process, several felt strongly that ED should not set aside funds for a review process, but should instead write regulations for the current informal process. The TRIO community believes that setting aside funds would have the effect of defunding current projects, especially at developing institutions, and that the Department should consider the political implications of the review process.
The committee also considered migrant education issues on Friday. A sub-committee for these issues met while the committee was discussing GEAR UP and TRIO issues. The sub-committee reported to the full committee before opening the discussion for comments. The migrant education community has reached a tentative consensus on the proposed definition of immediate family member, which looks at statutory intent and expansion of eligibility as appropriate. The definition does not change the programs' ability to provide services to undocumented individuals. The other migrant education issues are mainly conforming changes. The migrant education community has also agreed to regulate prior experience in similar fashion as GEAR UP and TRIO. The committee reached tentative consensus on all migrant education issues.
Team IV will hold its final meeting April 28th-30th.
Publication Date: 3/30/2009