Update on California Students’ Access to Title IV Aid Restored
As has been widely reported, California students’ access to Title IV aid was reinstated as of August 2, 2019 when the United States Department of Education (USDE) wrote to the California Department of Consumer Affairs (DCA) to accept their solution to handle student complaints for California students who are enrolled via distance education in out-of-state public and private nonprofit institutions. The California DCA also oversees the Bureau for Private Postsecondary Education, which handles complaints regarding for profit institutions, and will assist DCA in handling complaints regarding public and private non-profit institutions, according to their July 29, 2019 press release.
What does this mean for NC-SARA institutions?
Public and private nonprofit institutions participating in NC-SARA that enroll California students have had their Title IV aid restored, retroactive to May 26, 2019. Although the USDE indicated in their letter to the California DCA that the complaint process initiated does not quite meet all of the 2016 distance education rule expectations for compliance, the department would accept it. Diane Auer Jones, Acting Under Secretary of Education who signed the letter, also indicated that she planned to move quickly to implement the new 2019 rule which eliminates much of the complaint process and disclosures requirements.
It is important to recognize however, regardless of how these new federal rules may be published and implemented, that all NC-SARA member states must designate a “lead agency” to coordinate SARA matters for the state and provide a principal point of contact for resolution of student complaints, and must receive and resolve them according to a consistent complaint process. The NC-SARA Manual requires that member states have this process in place, specifically 2.5(f) “The State has a clearly articulated comprehensive State process for consumer protection in regard to SARA activities, both with respect to initial institutional approval and on-going oversight, including the resolution of consumer Complaints in all postsecondary sectors.” Section 4.4 of the Manual also addresses Consumer Protection. Reports of student complaints that are appealed to the institution’s home state are available on the NC-SARA web site and how those complaints were resolved is listed by state.
Lori Williams, PhD
President & CEO
August 14, 2019