DC Digest – June 21, 2013

DC Digest — June 21, 2013

  • Immigration Update: Higher Education Community Weighs in as Debate Continues
  • Appropriations Update: Senate Approves Spending Levels
  • House Energy and Water Bill Would Slash Energy Research
  • Student-Loan Interest-Rate Deadline Approaches, Talks Continue
  • Senators Reintroduce Legislation to Standardize Financial-Aid Award Letters
  • Study Questions How Long U.S. Research Universities Can Maintain Excellence
  • Department of Justice Seeks Information Regarding Merit-Based Aid Meetings
  • Department of Education Announces Separate Committee to Establish Standards for Gainful Employment

 

IMMIGRATION UPDATE: HIGHER EDUCATION COMMUNITY WEIGHS IN AS DEBATE CONTINUES
As the Senate continues to debate amendments to the Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act of 2013 (S. 744), leaders of higher education sent a letter to all Senators indicating support for the overall principles of the bill, but urging the Senate to adopt amendments supporting higher education needs and priorities. The letter applauded the inclusion of the DREAM Act, and commended the bill for its work to streamline the green card approval process for those earning STEM degrees. In addition, the letter thanks the Gang-of-Eight for working to draft amendments addressing concerns regarding H-1B visas, but urges the full Senate to adopt the amendments.

The letter also expressed concerns the community has with the legislation, including amendments regarding H-1B dependent employer requirements and continued to advocate using the Home Security Departments definition of STEM fields.

Senate leadership had targeted a vote on final passage for next week and on Friday, Majority Leader Harry Reid filed a motion to end debate and move toward final passage. The Office of Federal Relations continues to monitor and engage in the conversation to promote the best interests of the University.

Read More:
Higher Education Letter to Senate regarding Comprehensive Immigration Reform (pdf)

 

APPROPRIATIONS UPDATE: SENATE APPROVES SPENDING LEVELS
The Senate Committee on Appropriations approved spending allocations for federal spending in fiscal year 2014, allowing for the consideration of individual appropriation bills. The levels would allow for $91 billion higher spending in domestic programs than those approved in the House of Representatives, and have drawn significant opposition from Senate Republicans.

Under the Senate-approved levels, Labor, Health and Human Services and Education would receive $164.33 billion, nearly $43 billion more than the figure approved by the House Appropriations Committee.

Read More:
Senate Democrats set marker on spending (politico.com)

 

HOUSE ENERGY AND WATER BILL WOULD SLASH ENERGY RESEARCH
 The House Appropriations Energy and Water Subcommittee on June 18 marked up its FY14 funding bill, which includes significant cuts to energy research.  According to a committee press release, the bill includes $4.7 billion for energy science research, a cut of $223 million from the already-low, post-sequester FY13 level, and a $215-million, or 81-percent cut, for the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E).

The cuts in energy research appear to be an indication of the difficulty facing House appropriators.  Because the House is working from a low discretionary spending level—$91 billion less than the figure being used by the Senate and $17 billion less than the final FY13 level—and Republican leaders have chosen to protect national security-related bills and programs from the impact of the sequester, the remaining spending bills and programs face draconian reductions.

Read More:
Approprations Committee Releases Fiscal Year 2014 Energy and Water Appropriations Bill (appropriations.house.gov)

 

STUDENT LOAN INTEREST-RATE DEADLINE APPROACHES, TALKS CONTINUE
The July 1 deadline for finding a fix to the student-loan interest-rate increase draws near, with legislators saying this week a solution is “close.” A bi-partisan group of Senators is working to finalize language that would represent a compromise between the plan pitched by President Barack Obama and Senate Republicans. It would link the rate of new loans to Treasury bonds and lock the rate in for the life of the loan — a key priority for the White House that was missing from a House Republican bill.

This announcement comes as the Democrats on the Congress’s Joint Economic Committee released a report saying that the average student-laon borrower will pay an extra $2,600 over a decade if the interest rate is allowed to doulble on july 1.

The Duke Office of Federal Relations continue to be engaged in the discussions and is closely monitoring developments.

Read More:
Interest-rate Jump Would Cost Average Borrowers $2,600 Over 10 Years (chronicle.com)
Senators close to student loan deal (politico.com)
States Take Aim at Student Debt as July 1 Deadline Looms (pewstates.org)

 

SENATORS RE-INTRODUCE LEGISLATION TO STANDARDIZE FINANCIAL-AID AWARD LETTERS
A bipartisan group of U.S. senators on Friday reintroduced legislation designed to pave the way for a standardized letter on student financial-aid awards to be used by all American colleges.

The Understanding the True Cost of College Act (S 1156), would require institutions to use a standardized letter that would specify financial factors like the cost of attendance, grant aid, eligible amounts of federal student loans, expected monthly loan-repayment amounts, and disclosures related to loans and other aid.

Such letters would be comparable among institutions; currently, individual colleges often use their own award letters, in which the type of information and how it is presented may vary.

Senators Tom Harkin (D-OH) and Al Franken (D-MN) are the lead co-sponsors of the bill, with Senators Marco Rubio (R-FL) and Chuck Grasseley (R-IA) joining as original co-sponsors.

Read More:
Senators Reintroduce Bill to Standardize Student Financial-Aid Award Letter (chronicle.com)

 

STUDY QUESTIONS HOW LONG U.S. RESEARCH UNIVERSITIES CAN MAINTAIN EXCELLENCE
In an era of stagnating U.S. government support for academic science, officials at Johns Hopkins and other top research universities in the United States say private philanthropy is increasingly essential in maintaining their elite status. But some worry that countervailing trends could defeat that strategy and allow universities in the rest of the world to catch up or surpass the United States.

Read More:
How Long Can U.S. Stay on Top? (sciencemag.org)

 

DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE SEEKS INFORMATION REGARDING MERIT-BASED AID MEETINGS
The U.S. Department of Justice sent a letter last month to several private colleges saying the department opened an investigation into a “possible agreement among colleges to restrict tuition discounting and prevent colleges from changing or improving financial aid awards to individual students,” a move that the letter said would be in violation of federal antitrust regulations.

The letter cites a session at the Council of Independent Colleges’ 2013 Presidents Institute in January entitled “Collaborative Efforts on Student Aid and Admissions Policies: A Report on Progress, Prospects, and Possibilities” in which a group of private college presidents discussed potential ways to limit the use of non-need-based aid and shift money toward need-based aid.

Read more:
A Deficit of Trust  (insidehighered.org)

 

DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION ANNOUNCES SEPARATE COMMITTEE TO ESTABLISH STANDARDS FOR GAINFUL EMPLOYMENT
After concluding its June 4 negotiated rulemaking hearing in Atlanta, the Department of Education announced it will form a separate negotiated rulemaking committee to establish standards for gainful employment programs.  The Department indicated it would not rule out establishing additional committees to consider other issues covered in recent hearings, as well as debit card and campus-based aid program issues addressed in hearings last year.

The Department announcement, published in the June 12 Federal Register, said the new committee will hold two sessions this fall, on September 9-11 and October 21-23.  Nominations to the committee will be accepted until July 12.

Read More:
Dept. Ed. Sets Separate Neg.-reg Committee on Gainful Employment (naicu.org)