The U.S. Department of Education Dec. 17 issued an updated information collection request (ICR) under the Paperwork Reduction Act (PRA) related to Section 117 of the Higher Education Act, which requires disclosures of certain foreign gifts and contracts (Docket No. ED-2019-ICCD-0154). The ICR was issued as a request for an emergency review by the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) with a 10 day comment period and is an update to an original request the department issued on Sept. 6 [see Washington Highlights, Nov. 6].
The AAMC Dec. 19 joined the higher education community comments expressing concerns with the ICR. The comments note, “With regard to the Department’s revised proposed ICR, we recognize that the Department has made changes to the original ICR, including clarifying ambiguity related to the $250,000 threshold, limiting reporting to an ‘institution’ as defined in the law, limiting ‘contracts’ to incoming-money agreements, and eliminating several certifications.”
However, the higher education community remains concerned “that the Department’s revised proposed ICR continues to blatantly and inexplicably exceed the specific statutory authority set out in Sec. 117 by significantly expanding the disclosure reporting required under the statute. In a purported effort to obtain the information required under Sec. 117, the revised proposed ICR casts an expansive net through mandatory disclosures never contemplated or authorized under the statute.”
The comments recommend that the department should only require reporting of gift and contract information as specified in the statute and remove the requirement in the revised proposed information collection request that institutions produce “true copies” of gift, contract, and restricted or conditional gift agreements.
In order to meet the statutory deadline for institutions to report disclosures by Jan. 31, 2020, the department requested emergency processing of the new ICR with the OMB in hopes of publishing a final rule by Jan. 1, 2020. The AAMC Dec. 17 joined the higher education community in a letter to the department and the OMB urging against the request.
The letter asserts, “The Department’s request for emergency review of its Section 117 ICR fails to satisfy the requirements for emergency review set forth in the PRA and its implementing regulations.” If no changes are made, the new ICR will go into effect for the Jan. 31, 2020, data collection period.