The Department of Education (ED) on Wednesday published a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) to restructure regulations related to the Teacher Education Assistance for College and Higher Education (TEACH) Grant program and faith-based entities. A negotiated rulemaking committee convened earlier this year to discuss the regulations and reached consensus, which is reflected in ED’s proposed rule.
The TEACH Grant and faith-based entities NPRM follows soon after ED published final rules for accreditation and state authorization — which were negotiated at the same time as the TEACH Grant and faith-based entities regulations by different subcommittees and voted on in “buckets.”
Because the committee reached consensus on the TEACH Grant and faith-based entities regulations in April, this NPRM includes the agreed upon regulatory language, and is open for public comment. Comments are due by Jan. 10, 2019, and any final rules resulting from the NPRM would be effective July 1, 2021, since ED missed the Nov. 1, 2019 deadline to implement the rules in July 2020. ED can also allow for early implementation, in which case the final rules would be effective immediately upon publication.
“This proposed rule ensures educators who received TEACH Grants and who are meeting their service requirements do not have their grants converted to loans improperly or as a result of confusing bureaucratic paperwork. This new rule also recognizes, for the first time, the vital contributions of elementary school educators, whose service was not included in earlier TEACH Grant regulations,” Education Secretary Betsy DeVos said in a statement.
ED has come under fire recently for erroneously converting TEACH Grants to loans. During the negotiations, the group approved recommendations related to a timeline for grant-to-loan conversions, an appeals process for grant conversions, methods to increase program transparency for grant recipients, and expanded opportunities for grant recipients to finish their teaching requirements.
For example, currently, grant recipients are required to notify ED within 120 days of graduating or leaving a TEACH Grant-eligible program that they had begun their teaching service or plan to complete their teaching service later on in the year by certifying their employment or intent. For every subsequent year, recipients must certify — before a set deadline — that they completed a qualifying year of service or still intend to complete their service. Failure to meet the deadline could result in their grants being converted into loans.
The proposed rules, however, mandate that the conversion would only occur if it were impossible for a recipient to complete the four-year service agreement within the eight-year timeframe, and certifications would be accepted at any time up to a grant-to-loan conversion. Plus, the rules allow for recipients who were subject to grant-to-loan conversions to provide documentation to show they are fulfilling their service obligation, and, if approved, their loans may be converted back into grants.
With regard to faith-based entities, the proposed rules lifted restrictions for borrowers employed by religious organizations from qualifying for Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF), and removed the eligibility restriction for members of religious orders for the Pell Grant, Perkins Loan, Federal Work-Study (FWS), and Direct Subsidized Loan programs, among other changes.
“Faith-based institutions should not have to worry about losing access to federal programs due to their faith,” DeVos said in a statement. “These new rules will ensure a level playing field and will guarantee that individuals and institutions can continue to practice their faith and adhere to their values without losing the federal funding opportunities otherwise available to others.”
Stay tuned to Today’s News for a full analysis of the proposed rules related to faith-based entities. NASFAA has previously posted an analysis of the TEACH Grant proposed rules.
Publication Date: 12/11/2019