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Riley To Seek Higher-Ed. Leaders' Input on Student-Aid Rules

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Washington

Secretary of Education Richard W. Riley last week promised to work with higher-education officials in drafting regulations designed to tighten oversight of federal student-aid programs.

The Education Department delayed releasing draft regulations last month after higher-education leaders criticized the rules as too intrusive.

In a speech here, Mr. Riley told a group of accreditors that department officials will meet with higher-education leaders over the next several weeks to develop draft "program integrity'' regulations and to establish "state postsecondary review entities.''

He said that the rules would add to the responsibilities of accrediting agencies and that the review panels would have the authority to examine institutions' finances and academic programs.

"My background wouldn't reflect that I came [to Washington] to become a green-eyeshade regulator,'' Mr. Riley told representatives of the Middle States Association of Colleges and Schools.

However, the Secretary said, "the intent of Congress is quite clear. We must faithfully implement the law.''

In reauthorizing the Higher Education Act last year, Congress called for greater federal oversight of institutions participating in federal student-aid programs in an effort to stem student-loan defaults and to head off fraud in the Pell Grant program.

Targeting Oversight

The department is expected to release draft regulations, which will invite comment, next month. (See Education Week, Dec. 8, 1993.)

Meeting with reporters after the Secretary's speech, Assistant Secretary for Postsecondary Education David A. Longanecker added that the department is looking at ways to target increased oversight on institutions that are most likely to put federal dollars in jeopardy.

For-profit training schools, which tend to have the highest default rates, are likely to resist such efforts.

"By and large,'' Mr. Longanecker said, "we have no reason to believe that good institutions can't be trusted.''

Broader Context

Secretary Riley tied his remarks on federal oversight of student aid to the broader movement toward standards and accountability in education, and he reiterated his call for higher-education leaders to pay more attention to standards-setting efforts in K-12 education.

"The very process of setting standards, of striving for a world-class education for every child, will, by definition, have an enormous impact on all of your institutions,'' Mr. Riley told the accrediting group, "from reshaping teacher education to redesigning your undergraduate programs for an influx of more and better prepared students.''

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