OLR Bill Analysis

SB 24 (File 13, as amended by Senate "A")*

AN ACT CONCERNING PROGRAM APPROVAL FOR INDEPENDENT INSTITUTIONS OF HIGHER EDUCATION.

SUMMARY:

This bill exempts, until July 1, 2018, certain nonprofit independent higher education institutions from the Office of Higher Education's (OHE) approval process for new programs of higher learning and program modifications. (In practice, certain institutions are already exempt from this process (see BACKGROUND).) The bill exempts such institutions that (1) are eligible to participate in the Federal Family Education Loan program; (2) do not have a financial responsibility score of less than 1.5, as determined by the U.S. Department of Education, for the most recent fiscal year for which the necessary data is available; and (3) have been located in Connecticut and accredited as degree-granting institutions in good standing for at least 10 years by a regional accrediting association recognized by the U.S. education secretary. It specifies that teacher education programs remain subject to the State Board of Education's regulatory authority.

Institutions that are exempt under the bill must file with OHE, annually by July 1, (1) a list and brief description of any new programs introduced and existing programs discontinued in the preceding academic year; (2) a description of the institution's current program approval process; and (3) the institution's financial responsibility composite score, as determined by the U.S. Department of Education, for the most recent fiscal year for which the data necessary for determining the score is available.

The bill also requires OHE, by December 31, 2017, to report to the governor and Higher Education and Employment Advancement Committee on the appropriate roles and responsibilities of a state higher education regulatory agency in protecting student interests and outcomes. The report must include the agency's role in implementing the state's higher education strategic master plan, goals, and policies.

*Senate Amendment “A” adds the sunset date, composite score requirements, report by OHE, and makes other minor changes.

EFFECTIVE DATE: July 1, 2016

BACKGROUND

Program Approval

By law, non-exempt, independent higher education institutions seeking to offer a new academic program must receive approval from OHE. A public higher education institution must have its new academic programs approved by the institution's governing board (i.e., the UConn Board of Trustees or the Board of Regents for Higher Education).

Composite Score

According to the U.S. Department of Education, the composite score reflects the overall relative financial health of institutions along a scale from -1 to 3. A score of 1.5 or more indicates that the institution is considered financially responsible.

Institutions Currently Exempt

In practice, Connecticut College, Trinity College, Wesleyan University, and Yale University are already exempt from OHE's program approval authority. These institutions, classified by OHE as national independents, are longstanding institutions that predate the state's regulation of postsecondary academic programs. Additionally, the institutions' charters give the schools the power to decide which degrees to confer; no provisions require state approval for additional degrees.

COMMITTEE ACTION

Higher Education and Employment Advancement Committee

Joint Favorable

Yea

10

Nay

4

(02/25/2016)

Appropriations Committee

Joint Favorable

Yea

51

Nay

0

(04/19/2016)