DC Digest – July 12, 2013

DC Digest – July 12, 2013

  • Negotiations Continue on Student Loan Interest Rates Fix
  • Immigration Reform Passes Senate, Moves to House
  • UPDATE: House, Senate Continue Appropriations Mark Ups
  • Vice-Provost for Research Participates in Roundtable Discussion
  • Higher Education Associations Express Concern over STEM Consolidation 

The Senate failed to pass legislation containing a one-year fix to the student loan interest rates again this week, but negotiations continue in the hopes of finding a long-term solution. According to reports in Congressional Quarterly, the outlines of a deal would include linking interest rates to the 10-year Treasury bill, with a cap on how high the interest rate could go over the life of the loan.

Interest rates on federally-subsidized loans, including PLUS and Stafford loans, doubled on July 1 after the Senate was unable to pass legislation regarding the issue. The Office of Federal Relations continues to monitor developments and remains engaged with lawmakers on the issue.


Read More:
Cost Estimate Puts in Doubt Deal Covering Student Loans (NYTimes.com)


On June 28, the Senate approved the Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act by a vote of 68-32. Following this vote, Duke University President Richard Brodhead sent a letter to North Carolina Senator Kay Hagan thanking her for her support of the bill. In the letter, President Brodhead said the current bill would mean that “pursuing an education or research at Duke will be less complicated for the thousands of students and faculty who come to Durham each year from countries all over the world.”

On Wednesday, Republicans in the House of Representatives met to discuss their priorities for immigration reform. With the feedback gained there, House leadership will develop a plan for bringing forth immigration reform measures to the floor of the House. The Office of Federal Relations will remain an active participant in the discussion.

Read more:
Letter from President Brodhead to Senator Kay Hagan (governmentrelations.duke.edu)
Visa Holders Hoping for an Immigration Fix (today.duke.edu)
Immigration Reform: From Senate to the House (governmentrelations.duke.edu)


The House and Senate Committees on Appropriations have continued their work on appropriation bills this week, with both chambers considering bills affecting the higher education community. In the House, the Subcommittee on Commerce-Justice-Science Appropriations approved $7 billion in funding for the National Science Foundation, which the committee press release says is $259 below the FY13 enacted level and $631 million below the President’s FY14 request.  Within the NSF total, the subcommittee would provide $5.68 billion for Research and Related Activities, $825 million for Education and Human Resources, and $182.6 million for Major Research Equipment and Facilities Construction.

In the Senate, the Labor-HHS-Education Appropriations Subcommittee yesterday approved its FY14 funding bill using an allocation that the Committee press release says is $42 billion more than the House subcommittee allocation, a difference of nearly 26 percent. For the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the Senate bill would increase funding to $31 billion, which is $307 million more than it received in FY13. That total includes $40 million for the Administration’s new brain research initiative, an additional $84 million for Alzheimer’s disease research in the NIH Institute on Aging, and $50 million for the Cures Acceleration Network, which the committee press release says is five times the FY13 pre-sequester spending level.

For higher education, the subcommittee-approved measure would raise the Pell Grant maximum award by $140 to $5,785 (including mandatory funding) for school year 2014-15, as the Administration requested.  Additional details in the bill can be found here.


James Siedow, Duke Univeristy Vice-Provost for Research, participated in an annual roundtable sponsored by the Association of American Universities and the Science Coalition, an organization of 54 public and private research universities to discuss the impact of funding cuts imposed by the sequester on research. In an article on InsideHigherEd.com, Siedow said that some researchers might pass up on updating instrumentation to the latest technology, meaning the university could become less competitive. Overall, the group concluded that while they have seen some immediate impact on campuses, the full effects of sequester have yet to become apparent.
Read more:
Slow growing cancer” (Inside Higher Ed)


The presidents of two higher education associations sent a letter to senior White House officials on July 2 expressing concern about the Administration’s plan to consolidate several federal science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) education programs.  They urged the Administration to provide stakeholders and the public an opportunity to comment on its STEM education plan.

The letter, sent to Office of Management and Budget Director Sylvia Burwell and Office of Science and Technology Policy Director John Holdren, said the associations agreed that federal STEM education programs would benefit from “greater coordination and coherence.”  The association heads expressed concern, however, that the plan appears to have been developed as part of the FY14 budget process rather than as a result of the White House five-year STEM education plan that was published subsequently in late May.  The two associations noted that the consolidation process was conducted without transparency or a formal opportunity for public comment.

Read more:
Letter to OSTP (pdf)