DC Digest – July 1, 2014

In Today’s Issue:

  • This Week in Washington – Recess
  • House Ways and Means Approves Bill to Consolidate Education Tax Benefits
  • Rep. Capito Speaks at DukeDC Congressional Breakfast
  • House, Senate Education Committee Members Release HEA Reauthorization Plans
  • Senators Introduce TRANSFER Act to Strengthen Research Commercialization
  • Senate Committee Holds Hearing on Campus Sexual Assault
  • House Science Committee Approves “Secret Science” Bill


The House and Senate are in recess this week and so is This Week in Washington. We will return after the July 4th holiday.


The House Ways and Means Committee on June 25 approved legislation to consolidate four higher education tax provisions into one. The Student and Family Tax Simplification Act (H.R. 3393) would combine the Hope Credit, the American Opportunity Tax Credit (AOTC), the Lifetime Learning Credit (LLC), and the tuition deduction into a single AOTC and make it permanent.

Higher education organizations generally support consolidating current student tax credits and making the AOTC permanent. The Committee-approved version of the bill includes an important improvement to the bill, raising the income eligibility thresholds in the bill to current levels for the AOTC.

Unfortunately, consolidation of the tax provisions comes at the expense of graduate students who use the tuition deduction or the LLC, as well as for some low- and middle-income undergraduate students who are part-time students or take longer than four years to complete their educational programs. Duke OFR is engaged on the issue and will continue to provide updates.

Read More:
Higher Ed Concerns Over HR 3393 (aau.edu)


Representative Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV, T ’75) on June 25 spoke of her personal and professional journey at the annual Duke Congressional Breakfast on Capitol Hill. Speaking to a group of Duke alumni, parents, and students, Rep. Capito shared lessons learned from her days as a student and parent at Duke University and serving in the United States Congress.

Read More:
Photo Album (facebook)

Last week, leaders of the House and Senate committees with jurisdiction over the Higher Education Act (HEA) unveiled their proposals for reauthorizing the law. Both plans are intended to make college more affordable, provide students with better information about college costs and student aid, and increase institutional accountability for student access and success.

In the Senate, Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee Chairman Tom Harkin (D-IA) on June 25 unveiled the “Higher Education Affordability Act,” which he termed a draft discussion proposal. The plan has four main goals: “increasing college affordability, helping struggling borrowers, strengthening accountability, and improving transparency.”

As reported in last week’s DC Digest, the House is taking a more piecemeal approach to HEA reauthorization. House Education and the Workforce Committee Chairman John Kline (R-MN) and Higher Education and Workforce Training Subcommittee Chairwoman Virginia Foxx (R-NC) on June 24 released the outline of their priorities for reauthorization.  The strategy is to introduce a handful of smaller bills to address various aspects of the plan, and on June 26, committee Republicans introduced the first three bills reflecting some of these priorities.

There are some areas of agreement between the House and Senate approaches. For example, both would consolidate student-loan repayment plans into a single income-based repayment program; make Pell Grants available year-round; improve students’ financial literacy and offer improved financial counseling for students; and simplify the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA).

Chairman Kline says he anticipates votes on at least some of the bills he is introducing before the November election. Senator Harkin’s statement in the Committee press release did not say when he would try to move a bill, but that the discussion draft represents his “initial thoughts.” He said that other policies should also be addressed as part of an HEA reauthorization, including development of a student record system, reforming accreditation, and additional simplification measures. He added that he looked forward to a “robust discussion.”

Read More:
HELP Chairman Harkin Unveils Discussion Draft to Reauthorize Higher Education Act (Help.senate.gov)
Committee Members Introduce Legislation to Strengthen America’s Higher Education System (edworkforce.house.gov)
House Committee Leaders Unveil Principles for Strengthening America’s Higher Education System (edworkforce.house.gov)

On June 26, Senators Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) and Daniel Coats (R-IN) introduced the TRANSFER Act (S. 2551), a bill that would establish the “Innovative Approaches to Technology Transfer Grant Program” to improve or accelerate the commercialization of federally funded research being conducted at universities, federal laboratories, and other non-profit research organizations. Under the legislation, federal funds could be used to support proof of concept work, technology maturation activities, technical validation, technical assistance to licensees, outreach to small business, and other efforts to facilitate translation of early-stage technology to market viability.

The bill would allow institutions of higher education, technology transfer organizations, federal laboratories, public or private non-profit entities, or consortia of any of these types of organizations to apply for grants. The program would be funded through a small set-aside (.05 percent in 2015, .1 percent in 2016 and 2017) of federal agency extramural research or R&D budgets, to be drawn from the STTR expenditure requirements for each agency.

Representatives Derek Kilmer (D-WA) and Chris Collins (R-NY) originally introduced the TRANSFER Act in the House (H.R. 2981), in August 2013. AAU, the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities, and other organizations sent a letter of support for the Kilmer-Collins bill at that time. The House-passed National Defense Authorization Act (H.R. 4435), which passed the House on May 22, includes the TRANSFER Act language.

Read More:
Coats, Gillibrand Introduce Bipartisan Bill to Help Universities (Coats.senate.gov)
ACE letter regarding campus sexual assault hearing (ACEnet.edu)
2013 Letter Supporting House TRANSFER Act (aau.edu)


The Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor & Pensions held a hearing last week on “Sexual Assault on Campus: Working to Ensure Student Safety,” continuing the federal government’s efforts to weigh in on this sensitive and complex issue.

ACE president Molly Corbett Broad sent a letter to the committee in advance of the hearing, outlining the efforts colleges and universities are making to enhance educational programs to prevent sexual assaults and ensure a prompt, supportive and equitable response when they do occur. The letter outlines steps Congress could take to help support these programs and facilitate the response to campus assaults, including more funding for research into education and prevention training programs; clarifying the trio of federal laws-the Clery Act, Title IX, and the Violence Against Women Act-that address campus sexual assault; and removing federal barriers that undermine the ability to work closely with local law enforcement agencies when these cases arise. The letter also describes some of the difficulties brought about by the Education Department’s Office of Civil Rights policies and procedures in this area and how they might be resolved.

Read More:
Webcast and testimony for Senate hearing on campus sexual assault (help.senate.gov)

The House Science, Space, and Technology Committee on June 24 approved the “Secret Science Reform Act of 2014” (H.R. 4012), legislation that would prohibit the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) from proposing or issuing regulations unless the scientific information on which they are based is “specifically identified and publicly available in a manner that is sufficient for independent analysis and substantial reproduction of research results.”

The American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) on June 23 sent the Committee a letter on behalf of the research community expressing concerns about H.R. 4012. The letter focuses on the issue of defining such terms as “data” and “reproducibility,” as well as on the potential for imposing additional uncompensated costs on research grant recipients if they are expected to cover the costs of sharing and archiving research results that support EPA actions. The letter reminds committee members that the Office of Science and Technology Policy has been working with federal research agencies to establish policies regarding access to data; those policies are expected to be finalized by the end of the year. AAAS suggests that the Committee consider waiting to review those policies before imposing new statutory requirements.

Read More:
AAAS Letter Expressing Concern over HR 4012 (AAAS.org)