DC Digest – July 28, 2014

In Today’s Issue:

  • This Week in Washington
  • Senate FY15 Appropriations Draft Bills: Labor-HHS-Education, Energy and Water
  • Duke Historian to Receive National Humanities Medal
  • Duke Researchers Share Expertise in White House Conferences
  • House Approves Black-Davis Higher Ed Tax Credit Bill
  • House Approves Three Higher Ed Bills
  • White House Issues Agency Guidance for S&T in FY16 Budget
  • Senator Harkin Introduces Bill to Restore NIH Purchasing Power
  • Record Student Loan Debt Prompts Treasury Push to Stem Default
  • Duke Researcher to Testify Before Senate Subcommittee


Capitol Hill: Congress will adjourn for a six-week August recess at the end of this week, and lawmakers have left themselves a long to-do list for their final days in Washington. Legislators are hoping to pass emergency funding to address the unaccompanied minors on the southern border, finalize a path for the Highway Trust Fund, and solidify an agreement to reform the Veterans Affairs Department. The House could also vote on proceeding with a lawsuit against President Obama for executive overreach, and the Senate Foreign Relations Committee will hold hearings on the status of nuclear talks with Iran and confirmation for John Tefft to be ambassador to Russia.

Federal Reserve: On Wednesday, the Federal Reserve Open Market Committee will release a statement on their assessment of the economy and inflation rates. Within the statement, the FOMC will announce any changes to their bond buying practices and potentially give indicators as to when they will begin to raise interest rates.

White House: On Monday, President Obama will speak to a summit for Young African Leaders, which is leading up to next week’s African Leaders summit at the State Department. On Thursday, the President and First Lady will host a dinner inaugurating a year of celebration for the Special Olympics, taking place next July in Los Angeles.

Read More:
Many Hurdles in the Race to Recess (nationaljournal.com)
U.S. Government Bonds Edge Down Ahead of Debt Sales, Fed Meeting (wsjonline.com)

The Senate Appropriations Committee last week published draft committee reports for two draft FY15 funding bills important to higher education:  Labor-HHS-Education and Energy and Water. The release establishes Democrats’ priorities for the bills even as it appears that neither will be marked up in full committee.

–Senate FY15 Labor-HHS-Education
The measure would provide $30.5 billion for the National Institutes of Health (NIH), an increase of $606 million above the FY14 level. Within that total, the bill includes $100 million for the second year of the multi-agency Brain Research through Application of Innovative Neurotechnologies (BRAIN) initiative, an increase of $60 million.

For student financial aid, the subcommittee-approved bill would maintain the discretionary portion of the maximum Pell grant award at $4,860 for the 2015-2016 school year. When combined with mandatory funding, this would raise the maximum award by an estimated $100, to $5,830. The bill also would increase funding for several campus-based student aid programs.

For the campus-based aid programs, the Senate bill would:

·       raise funding for Federal Work Study by $35 million;
·       raise funding for TRIO by $8.4 million;
·       raise Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grants by $15 million; and
·       raise funding for GearUP by $3 million.

In addition, the bill would fund Title VI International Education programs at $81.2 million, an increase of $9 million. Some $5 million of the increase is for study abroad. The bill also includes $75 million for the President’s First in the World initiative, with $20 million set aside for minority-serving institutions.

For the Graduate Assistance in Areas of National Need (GAANN) program, the bill would provide $31 million, an increase of $1.7 million. As the higher education community requested, the humanities and social sciences are included as eligible fields for GAANN awards.

–Senate FY15 Energy and Water Appropriations Bill and Report
Reportedly, the measure would provide $5.086 billion for the Department of Energy (DOE) Office of Science, a $15 million, or .3 percent, increase over FY14. The Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy would receive $280 million, which is the same as the FY14 and House FY15 levels, and $45 million below the Administration’s FY15 request. The bill would also provide $2.073 billion for the DOE Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, a $171.24 million, or 9 percent, increase over FY14, but $243.821 million below the Administration’s request.

Within the DOE Office of Science total, the Senate bill would provide:

·          $557 million for Advanced Scientific Computing Research, a $78.4 million, or 16.4 percent, increase over FY14, and $16 million above either the House number or the Administration request;
·          $1.8065 billion for Basic Energy Sciences, a $93.7 million, or 5.5 percent, increase over FY14 and level with the Administration’s request; within the total, the Senate would allocate $100 million to  Energy Frontier Research Centers, $24.175 million to the Batteries and Energy Storage Hub, and $24.175 million to the Fuels from Sunlight Hub (contingent on the Office of Science completing an internal and peer review of the hub);
·          $627.5 million for Biological and Environmental Research, a $17.34 million, or 2.8 percent, increase over FY14 and a reduction of $467,000 from the Administration request;
·          $341 million for Fusion Energy Sciences, a $164.68 million, or 32.6 percent, reduction from FY14 and $75 million below the Administration request. The bill provides just $75 million for the international ITER project and directs DOE and the Office of Science to withdraw from the project;
·          $774.482 million for High Energy Physics, a $23.04 million, or 2.9 percent, cut from FY14, but $30.48 million above the Administration request;
·          $601.573 million for Nuclear Physics, a $31.64 million, or 5.6 percent, increase over FY14 and $8 million above the Administration request; and
·          $29.5 million for Workforce Development, a $3 million, or 11.3 percent, increase over FY14 and $10 million above the Administration request; the total includes $10 million to continue the Computational Sciences Graduate Fellowship.

Read More:
FY15 Department of Education Programs Funding Chart (aau.edu)
FY15 LHHS Subcommittee Reported Bill and Draft Report (appropriations.senate.gov)
FY 15 E&W Subcommittee Reported Bill and Draft Report (appropriations.senate.gov)

The esteemed Southern historian Anne Firor Scott, the W.K. Boyd Professor of History Emerita at Duke, has been awarded a 2013 National Humanities Medal.

Scott, who taught in Duke’s history department from 1961 until 1991, was selected for “pioneering the study of southern women. Through groundbreaking research spanning ideology, race, and class, Dr. Scott’s uncharted exploration into the lives of southern women has established women’s history as vital to our understanding of the American South.”

The medal honors individuals whose work has deepened the nation’s understanding of the humanities, broadened citizen engagement with the humanities, or helped preserve and expand access to important resources in the humanities.

Scott will receive the medal during a ceremony at 3 p.m. Monday, July 28, at the White House; the ceremony can be viewed at www.whitehouse.gov/live.

Read More:
Anne Firor Scott Awarded 2013 National Humanities Medal (duke.edu)

Two Duke faculty members will travel to Washington this week to participate in two separate meetings at the White House.

On July 28, Ben Goodman, a research scientist at the Center for Child and Family Policy, will present at a conference co-sponsored by the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy and the Coalition for Evidence-Based Policy that is focused on spotlighting effective, low-cost randomized controlled trials.  Goodman will share his work monitoring the impact of Durham Connects, a program that provides free nurse home visits to all infants born in Durham County.

Angel Harris, professor of sociology, will participate on July 31 in a symposium on “Transformative Family Engagement” at the White House. As part of the discussion on family engagement in childrens’ academic success, Harris will discuss his research on the effect of parental involvement on educational outcomes, which is detailed in his new book The Broken Compass.

Read More:
White House-Sponsored Conference Features Durham Connects Evaluation (duke.edu)
Parental Involvement is Overrated – opinion piece based on Prof. Harris’s book (New York Times)

The House last week approved the Student Family Tax Simplification Act (H.R. 3393), legislation introduced by Reps. Diane Black (R-TN) and Danny Davis (D-IL) that consolidates and simplifies four existing education tax credits into a single permanent tax credit with a maximum value of $2,500. The four credits are the Hope Credit, the American Opportunity Tax Credit (AOTC), the Lifetime Learning Credit, and the tuition deduction.

As reported in last week’s DC Digest, a group of ten higher education associations wrote to all Members of the House expressing appreciation for the bill’s consolidation of higher education tax credits and its better coordination with the Pell Grant, but detailing concerns about some of its provisions. Specifically, the associations said that certain changes in the bill would harm many low- and middle-income students who benefit from current law, as well as graduate students and lifetime learners who use the current tax deduction or the Lifetime Learning Credit.

The White House issued a Statement of Administration Policy that supports making the AOTC permanent, but opposes the bill on the basis that it provides no funding offsets for its estimated 10-year cost of $16 billion.

Read More:
House Overhauls Tax Breaks (Inside Higher Ed)
Chairman Camp Floor Statement (waysandmeans.house.gov)
Higher Ed Letter Expressing Concerns With Davis Black Tax Bill (aau.edu)
Statement on Administration Policy (whitehouse.gov)


The House last week approved three bills that would reauthorize portions of the Higher Education Act. The Advancing Competency-Based Education Demonstration Project Act (H.R. 3136) and the Strengthening Transparency in Higher Education Act (H.R. 4983) were approved on July 23; the Empowering Students through Enhanced Financial Counseling Act (H.R. 4984) was approved the next day, July 24.

A group of 17 higher education associations sent a letter on July 22 to House Education and the Workforce Committee Chair John Kline (R-MN) expressing support for the three bills. They noted, “We are particularly pleased that all three of these bills received strong and widespread bipartisan support when the Committee approved them.”

The financial counseling bill, H.R. 4984, would improve financial counseling support for college students and their parents by:

·          ensuring that both students and parents who participate in a federal loan program receive interactive counseling each year that reflects their individual borrowing situation;
·          informing low-income students about the terms and conditions of the Pell Grant program through annual counseling that will be provided to all grant recipients; and
·          directing the Secretary of Education to maintain and disseminate a consumer-tested, online counseling tool that institutions can use to provide annual loan counseling, exit counseling, and annual Pell Grant counseling.

It is important to keep in mind that at the end of this Congress all legislation—including all bills passed by one chamber or the other—expires and the process must begin anew. And while the House bills are important markers for that body, the HEA process in the Senate has been very different and it appears unlikely it will take up the House bills this year.

Read More:
House Passes Legislation to Support Innovation, Strengthen Transparency in Higher Education (edworkforce.house.gov)
Higher Ed Letter to House on July 2014 HEA Reauthorization Bills (acenet.edu)
Baby Steps for Higher Ed Act (Inside Higher Ed)

The White House last week issued its annual memorandum to federal research agencies on how they should set science and technology (S&T) priorities in their FY16 budget requests.

As described by the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the memo, released jointly by the Office of Management and Budget and OSTP, includes themes for FY16 that “are variations on themes from earlier years.” These include advanced manufacturing, clean energy, climate research, information technology, biological innovation, national security, and R&D for informed policymaking.

Read More:
FY16 Budget to Prioritize Manufacturing, Clean Energy, Climate, Neuroscience (AAAS.org)
White House Memorandum on S&T Priorities for FY16 Budget (Whitehouse.gov)

Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA) chairman of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor-HHS-Education, introduced The Accelerate Biomedical Research Act on July 24, legislation aimed at restoring the buying power of the National Institutes of Health (NIH).  has been endorsed by several organizations.

The Senator’s press release notes that after Congress doubled the NIH budget between 1998 and 2003, “austere budget caps” led to a 20-percent erosion in the agency’s purchasing power for biomedical research. The bill seeks to reverse that trend by instituting a budget cap adjustment that gives priority to NIH over the remaining fiscal years of the Budget Control Act. The measure would “require the Appropriations Committee to maintain the current funding of $29.9 billion for NIH, above which appropriations will rise up to $46.2 billion at the end of the seven year period from Fiscal Year 2015 to 2021.”

Read More:
Senate Bill Seeks to Accelerate Biomedical Research by Prioritizing Funding (Harkin.senate.gov)

The U.S. Treasury, which finances more than 90 percent of new student loans, is exploring ways to make repayment more affordable as defaults by almost 7 million  Americans and other strapped borrowers restrain economic growth.

Leading the effort is Deputy Secretary Sarah Bloom Raskin, who became the department’s No. 2 official in March after more than three years as a Federal Reserve governor. As higher-education debt swells to a record $1.2 trillion, Raskin, 53, is alert to parallels to the mortgage crisis.

Read More:
Record Student-Loan Debt Prompts Treasury Push to Stem Default (Bloomberg)

Jeannine Sato, a researcher with the Duke enter for Child and Family Policy, will testify on July 30 before the Senate Subcommittee on Children and Families about the benefits of paid family leave.  The hearing, “Paid Family Leave: The Benefits for Businesses and Working Families” will take place at 10:15 a.m. in Room SD-430.

Read More:
Subcommittee Hearing – Paid Family Leave: The Benefits for Businesses and Working Families (help.senate.gov)
20 Years In, Family Leave Act Doesn’t Go Far Enough (newsobserver.com)