Financial Aid Regulations

The U.S. Department of Education is responsible for drafting and implementing federal regulations in conjunction with The Higher Education Act (HEA). Though the HEA was signed into law in 1965, it constantly needs to be evaluated and reauthorized. In 2009 the Congress passed the latest reauthorization of the Act called Higher Educations Opportunity Act. Through this process, new regulations are established. The Department of Education is responsible for publishing these regulations, then interpreting and implementing them. Northeastern, like other universities and colleges, must track the financial aid debate, including new regulations that govern these program. Northeastern's Office of Government Relations continues to be involved in the policy debate related to financial aid on behalf of our community.

Higher Education Act

Plaque where LBJ signed HEA in 1965

The Higher Education Act (HEA) is the federal law that governs the administration of federal student aid programs that are responsible for the majority of financial assistance to postsecondary students. The HEA was originally passed in 1965 and signed into law by President Lyndon B. Johnson as part of his Great Society domestic agenda. The HEA was designed to strengthen resources for higher education institutions and also provide financial assistance for students. HEA programs and activities fall into four main categories:

  1. student financial aid
  2. services to help students complete high school and enter and succeed in postsecondary education 
  3. aid to institutions
  4. aid to improve K-12 teacher training at postsecondary institutions

There are seven sections of the HEA, but one of the most significant section in the HEA is Title IV, which addresses Student Assistance specifically. The purpose of Title IV was to "assist in making available the benefits of postsecondary education to eligible students in institutions of higher education." In order to be successful in providing greater accessibility and opportunities for education, Title IV discusses providing grants to students and also assistance to higher education institutions.

Pictured: A plaque celebrating the signing of the HEA in 1965 at President Lyndon B. Johnson's alma mater, Southwest Texas State College (now Texas State University in San Marcos, Texas). Where the plaque stands is the site where the Act was signed. 

"It was here in these surroundings seeds were planted from which grew my firm conviction that for the individual, education is the path to achievement and fulfillment for the Nation, it is a path to society that is not only free by civilized; and for the world, it is the path to peace - for it is education that placed reason over force"
- President Johnson speaking on November 8, 1965, while signing the HEA 

Higher Education Opportunity Act

To encourage growth and change, the HEA must be re-approved, or "reauthorized," by Congress approximately every five years. During this process, Congress considers an array of relevant issues pertaining to the HEA. The Higher Education Opportunity Act (Public Law 110-315) (HEOA) was enacted on August 14, 2008, and reauthorizes and extends the Higher Education Act of 1965. This was the first reauthorization since the 1998. 

To view the American Council on Education summary and analysis of the 2008 HEOA, click here.

Regulations implementing HEOA

In September of 2009, the Department of Education published a notice in the Federal Registrar announcing its intent to establish two negotiated rulemaking committees to prepare proposed regulations under Title IV of HEA of 1965.  Shortly after, in October of 2009, the Department of Education published the final regulations in the Federal Registrar. This same process was carried out in the summer of 2010. As with any remaking negotiation, the Department of Education drafts the new regulations and then they are available to the public for a period of time. During this time, the public can draft their own set of comments on the regulations and return them to the DE. Once the final regulations are agreed upon, they are published in the Federal Registrar. Most recently during the summer of 2010, the Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) encapsulated regulations dealing with 13 issues, including Gainful Employment.

Gainful Employment

The Gainful Employment regulation was designed to protect students from borrowing excessive amounts of money for education considering their projected income. Gainful Employment requires that for-profit schools provide the job placement rates for the respective programs. In addition, schools would be obligated to provide the DE the information needed to determine students' debt levels after education and also their expected income after program completion. Gainful Employment data covers around 6,000 schools, the main target being for-profit schools. In theory, this regulation should not affect Northeastern University; however, there is concern that these regulations could become a tool for the Department of Education to evaluate non-profit universities.

To get information regarding the Gainful Employment regulation, click here.

To get information regarding the 2010 NPRMs, click here.

Other 2010 NPRMs

Holding Programs Accountable for Preparing Students for Gainful Employment

Approval of Additional Programs

Ensuring that only eligible students receive federal funds

High School Diploma

College Credits

Ability to Benefit

Satisfactory Academic Progress


Protecting consumers from misleading or overly aggressive recruiting practices, and clarifying State oversight responsibilities


Incentive Compensation

State Authorization

Clarifying the courses that are eligible for federal aid, and the amount of aid that is appropriate

Credit Hour

Written Agreements

Retaking Coursework

Determining When a Student Has Withdrawn

Disbursing Federal Student Aid Funds