A set of new regulations and conditions were issued by the Biden Administration, which colleges and universities must comply with when seeking approval for financial aid. The most prominent conditions included as new rules pertain to gainful employment, regardless of whether the financial aid is part of a state authorization or of a reciprocity agreement. This particular requirement will apply to all types of financial aid programs.
Prominent New Requirements and Conditions for Financial Aid Regulations
Consumer Protection Laws – One of the new conditions included a proposed requirement by the Education Department, for colleges and universities to include consumer protection laws.
State Reciprocity Agreement – In addition, the Education Department also submitted a proposal for educational institutions to collaborate by way of a joint state reciprocity agreement.
The agreement will allow online students to receive federal financial aid from the state where the educational institution is located. At the same time allow the online students to bypass some of the state requirements if the educational institution has a reciprocity agreement with the state.
Officials at the Education Department said that the new regulations and conditions intend to establish a more rigorous process that will give students and taxpayers better protection. According to the Department, 49 states and the District of Columbia as well as Puerto Rico and other territories, have signed up for the voluntary agreement. Absence of a reciprocity agreement will constrain institutions to seek authorization from every state for each online student they will accept for enrolment in their institution.
To help low-income students gain access to financial help that would enable them to enroll in college, the Education Department made temporary changes. The changes aim to reduce the barriers mostly found in the income verification process, which makes it difficult for students with financial needs to qualify for financial aid.
Moreover, the Education Department has noted that enrollment numbers for higher education in colleges are down. Apparently, as a result of the still ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, about 200,000 students of color and from low-income households are encountering difficulty in providing the documentations required in the income verification process.
Rationale Behind the Temporary Suspension of Income Verification Process
Here’s the thing, the income documentation requirements are different for applicants whose household incomes qualify them for tuition fee assistance by way of Pell Grants. However, approval of the tuition fee assistance is subject to verification that requires submission of certain documents such as copies of income tax returns and other proofs of eligibility.
On the other hand, students whose household incomes do not qualify for Pell Grants are excluded from the income verification process. The exclusion makes it easier for this subset of students to easily access other forms of student financial aid.
The income verification system therefore disproportionately burdens low income students, particularly persons of color, considering that the pandemic has been tough on everyone. More so for students who come from low income families.
Richard Cordray, the COO od the Education Department’s Office for Federal Student Aid said it’s imperative for them to provide students with a straightforward approach to acquiring financial aid, to ensure that those greatly in need can carry on with their college enrollment.