State PIRGs' Higher Education Project
218 D Street SE
Washington, DC 20003
(202) 546-9707

Director:
Ivan Frishberg

Advocate:
Ellynne Bannon

 

July 25, 2001

The Honorable Howard "Buck" McKeon
Chairman
Subcommittee on 21st Century Competitiveness
H2-230 Ford House Office Building
U.S. House of Representatives
Washington, D.C. 20515

The Honorable Patsy T. Mink
Ranking Member
Subcommittee on 21st Century Competitiveness
2210 Rayburn House Office Building
U.S. House of Representatives
Washington, D.C. 20515

Dear Mr. Chairman and Representative Mink,

The United States Student Association and the State PIRGs want to thank the Subcommittee on 21st Century Competitiveness' commitment to address distance education issues. We agree that the current Higher Education Act's distance education provisions should be reexamined. However, we are writing on behalf of our three million student constituents to ask that you delay further movement of H.R. 1992, "The Internet Education and Equity Act of 2001." We feel that this important issue warrants further consideration before legislative action is taken.

It is uncertain how changes in the three key provision of H.R. 1992; the 50 percent rule, the 12-hour rule and incentive compensation, will impact institutions or students. We agree that as technologies in distance education have evolved, these provisions - designed to curb abuses in distance education - must be re-evaluated. However, we have serious concerns that any substantive changes made to these safeguards absent of a clear understanding of the impacts may harm students.

We think that it would be well advised to consider the studies currently being conducted by the Department of Education, through both the Distance Education Demonstration Program and their work on the incentive compensation bans, before moving forward. This combined with the work being done by the Institute of Higher Education Policy and the Advisory Committee on Student Financial Aid will provide important insight into the issues surrounding distance education.

According to the College Board in 1998-99, almost half of all students graduated with more than $19,000 in debt. In addition, 29% of low-income students work more than 35 hours a week. We cannot afford to gamble on an issue that is so important to the future of our educational system, or the students that it serves. We owe it to those most in need of more flexible educational options, working students, student-parents and those in need of more up-to-date job-training to be vigilant about the quality of education offered to them with the federal government's seal of approval. We urge you to delay further movement of H.R. 1992 until the impacts of this legislation to both students and institutions can clearly be determined.

Sincerely,

Corye Barbour
U.S. Student Association Legislative Director

Ellynne Bannon
The State PIRGs' Higher Education Project

cc: The Honorable Johnny Isakson