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House, Senate Democrats Warn DeVos Against Changing Distance Education Rules Amid COVID-19 Pandemic

Lori Trahan

WASHINGTON – In a letter to Secretary of Education Betsy DeVosCongresswoman Lori Trahan (MA-03) joined with House Education and Labor Committee Chairman Bobby Scott (VA-03) and Senate HELP Ranking Member Patty Murray (D-WA) to call on the Department to delay changes to distance education rules as students and schools adapt to virtual classrooms in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

In a public comment letter, the Democratic education leaders wrote that the history of fraud and abuse in distance education programs and the massive shift to online classes in response to COVID-19 has made this a particularly problematic time to make changes that could weaken accountability for distance education and other providers.

“The rapid expansion of distance education by institutions of higher education (institutions) as a response to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic calls for greater rather than less oversight,” the Members wrote“Especially during this crisis, students must trust that distance education can provide them with a high-quality education. Thus, we urge the Department to delay this rulemaking until Congress and the public can better assess the needs of students and institutions in order to properly respond.”

The Members noted, in particular, that negotiated rulemaking participants rejected various harmful provisions in the Department’s original proposal and urged the Department to maintain consensus language on these points if the Department chooses to move forward with the rulemaking process. These harmful provisions included erasing the federal definition of a “credit hour,” relaxing the oversight of “regular and substantive” faculty interaction, and undermining guardrails designed to protect taxpayers from institutions outsourcing academic programs to low-quality and un-vetted third-party providers.  

Read the full letter to Secretary DeVos here.
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