On April 11, the Department of Education posted an update to its February 15 Dear Colleague Letter regarding its expanded interpretation of third-party servicer. The following is a statement by the executive director and CEO of NAFSA: Association of International Educators in response. Aw delivered these remarks today at a Department of Education virtual public hearing.
“On behalf of our thousands of members and partners in the United States and worldwide, let me begin by commending the Department of Education for announcing yesterday that it will clarify and amend the February 15 guidance regarding third-party servicers or TPS.
"As it was originally written, the February 15 guidance posed a grave threat to U.S. students’ access to the global skills, experiences, and perspectives they need to thrive in today’s economy. It also ran counter to an important goal of Title IV programs, which is to provide greater education opportunities to a wider swath of American students.
“NAFSA and its coalition partners were among the more than 1,000 commenters on the guidance. We pressed the department to rescind or defer it and revise it in critical ways. It is gratifying to see a swift response to some of our concerns. We are heartened to see that the department will exempt contracts involving study abroad programs and international student recruitment from TPS requirements. It also intends to remove the provision barring a foreign-owned TPS from contracting with a U.S college or university.
“The changes communicated in yesterday’s update are incredibly meaningful to higher education and its ability to prepare U.S. students for a globally connected world. International partnerships are truly the lifeblood of most study abroad programs. They are also an essential component of international student recruitment efforts in today’s increasingly competitive market for the world’s best and brightest.
“We were also pleased to see in yesterday’s announcement that the Department intends to consider narrowing the scope of the guidance in several areas.
“We strongly agree and urge the department to limit the TPS definition to ONLY contracts involving an institution’s administration of Title IV program funding. It should NOT include entities related to educational programming, student retention, or logistical or technical support that DOES NOT involve the administration of Title IV program funds.
“We remain concerned, however, that keeping a broader scope of entities under the TPS umbrella could stifle or disrupt the wide range of transnational partnerships that currently exist in U.S. academia. These partnerships enable students, scholars, and faculty to study, earn a degree, intern, and conduct research at institutions abroad—either virtually or in-person.
“We advise the department to follow the Administrative Procedure Act rulemaking process if it wishes to include any non-financial activities in the TPS definition.
“We stand ready and eager with our partners to help the department finalize this guidance in such a way that maintains U.S. students’ ability to reap the many benefits that accrue from a globally enriched education. We look forward to working with the department to address these critical concerns."
About NAFSA: Serving more than 10,000 members and international educators worldwide, NAFSA: Association of International Educators is the largest nonprofit association dedicated to international education and exchange. Visit us at www.nafsa.org/press. To learn more about our advocacy efforts on behalf of international education, visit www.nafsa.org/takeaction. Resources to guide our members on these issues can be found at www.nafsa.org/reginfo.