DC Digest – March 22, 2013

In Today’s Issue:

  • Senate Approves FY13 CR, House Approves and Sends to Obama
  • Senate Accepts Modified Coburn NSF Amendment to CR
  • Senator Hagan’s Tuition Assistance Amendment included in CR
  • House and Senate Make Progress on Respective FY14 Budget Resolutions
  • Administration Will Issue FY14 Budget Proposal April 8
  • ED Department Says Competency-Based Programs Can be Eligible for Student Aid
  • Harvard, MIT Thwart Effort to Cap Overhead Payments
  • Higher Ed Associations Submit Comments on Provisions of the Affordable Care Act


SENATE APPROVES FY13 CR, HOUSE APPROVES AND SENDS TO OBAMA
The Senate voted 73-26 Wednesday to pass its version of the FY 2013 spending package (H.R. 933) needed to fund the federal government through Sept. 30. The House swiftly approved the $984 billion measure on Thursday after little debate. It now heads to President Obama, who is expected to sign it quickly so as to avert a government shutdown on March 28, when the current continuing resolution (CR) runs out.

The stalemate over amendments had delayed Senate consideration of the FY13 funding bill, which is needed to sustain federal funding through the end of this fiscal year and avoid a government shutdown after the current continuing resolution (CR) expires next Wednesday, March 27.  Lawmakers were anxious to approve the package this week before the start of the two-week spring recess.

The Senate version is more favorable to higher education than the House measure—it increases funds for the National Science Foundation and National Institutes of Health, it restores education benefits for active duty military personnel, and provides more money for more Education Department programs than the House measure did (see NAICU item in “read more” for details).

Read More:
ACE Letter of Support for Senate Version of CR (ACEnet.edu) 
Government Shutdown Averted, TA Benefits Reinstated (NAICU.edu)


SENATE ACCEPTS MODIFIED COBURN NSF AMENDMENT TO CR
A measure limiting National Science Foundation funding for political science research projects passed the Senate on Wednesday. Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) submitted a series of amendments to the Continuing Appropriations Act of 2013, the Senate bill to keep the government running past March 27. One of those amendments, approved by the Senate by unanimous consent, would prohibit the NSF from funding through the Political Science Program unless a project is certified as “promoting national security or the economic interests of the United States.”

The amendment, which was approved by a voice vote, was a modified version that was a compromise between Senator Coburn and Senator Barbara Mikulski (D-MD), chair of the Senate Appropriations Committee.  The original version of the amendment would have eliminated all funding from the Political Science Program ($10 million), diverting $7 million of the total to the National Cancer Institute.

OFR joined the university research community in urging Senators to oppose the amendment, and will continue to monitor this issue as NSF moves forward with implementation of the language.

Read More:
Text of Amendment (apsanet.org) 
Tom Coburn Amendment Limiting NSF Research Funding Passes Senate (huffingtonpost)
AAU Letter Expressing Opposition to Coburn-McCain Amendment (pdf)
SENATOR HAGAN’S TUITION ASSISTANCE AMENDMENT INCLUDED IN CR
A bipartisan amendment to restore Tuition Assistance for service members, introduced by Senators Kay R. Hagan (D-NC) and Jim Inhofe (R-OK), passed the Senate and was included in the final version of the six-month continuing resolution (CR) to fund the federal government for the remainder of the 2013 fiscal year. 

Read More:
Hagan’s Bipartisan Tuition Assistance Amendment Passes Senate (Hagan.senate.gov) 

HOUSE AND SENATE MAKE PROGRESS ON RESPECTIVE FY14 BUDGET RESOLUTIONS
Enactment of the FY 2013 CR paves the way for both chambers to consider their respective versions of the budget resolution for FY 2014, which begins Oct. 1.

House Budget
The House debated its measure beginning on Tuesday, and it passed Thursday by a vote of 221-207.

Fourteen higher education associations wrote to House members on Tuesday, outlining their objections to their budget resolution. The objections include:
– Pell grant provisions that reduce funding for the program by $86 billion over the next 10 years while also severely limiting eligibility;
– Plans to eliminate the federal student loan in-school interest exemption;
– Plans to curtail income-based repayment options; and
– Slashed research funding. 

Senate Budget
The Senate began debating its bill on Thursday; however, a vote is not expected until Saturday afternoon.

The Senate’s budget proposal offers advantages for programs of interest to higher education. In particular, the Senate budget would:
–    Fully fund Pell Grants and eliminate future shortfalls from the program;
–    Make the subsidized Stafford Loan interest rate permanent and provide increased funding levels for the other aid programs; and
–    Provideincreased funding levels for scientific research and institutional support.

Read More:
House and Senate Lay Out Budget Plans for FY14 (NAICU.edu)
Higher Ed Letter Objecting to House Budget Resolution (pdf) 
House FY14 Budget (budget.house.gov)
Function by Function Table (budget.house.gov)
Senate FY14 Budget
 (Budget.senate.gov)
Senate Summary Table
 (Budget.senate.gov)

ADMINISTRATION WILL ISSUE FY14 BUDGET APRIL 8
The White House will release its FY14 budget on Monday, April 8.  The Department of Energy has already announced its budget briefing schedule for that afternoon.

The FY14 budget is more than two months late, which the Administration attributes to the congressional delay in resolving final FY13 appropriations as well as the budget sequester, which went into effect on March 1. 

ED DEPARTMENT SAYS COMPETENCY-BASED PROGRAMS CAN BE ELIGIBLE FOR STUDENT AID
The U.S. Department of Education has endorsed competency-based education with the release today of a letter that encourages interested colleges to seek federal approval for degree programs that do not rely on the credit hour to measure student learning.

Read more:
Beyond the Credit Hour (Inside Higher Ed)
Letter: Applying for Title IV Eligibility for Direct Assessment Programs (pdf)

HARVARD, MIT THWART EFFORT TO CAP OVERHEAD PAYMENTS
Harvard, MIT, and a coalition of other powerhouse research institutions have thwarted a reform proposal by the Obama administration to slash the amount of government research money each school receives for overhead costs.

The result is that about $10 billion a year, roughly a quarter of the nation’s university research budget, will continue to be channeled into such things as administrative salaries and building depreciation instead of directly into scientific studies.

Read More:
Harvard, MIT Thwart Effort to Cap Overhead Payments (BostonGlobe.com)

HIGHER ED ASSOCIATIONS SUBMIT COMMENTS ON PROVISIONS OF AFFORDABLE CARE ACT
Ten higher education associations submitted comments to the Internal Revenue Service on March 18 regarding a proposed rule on implementation of the Affordable Care Act (ACA). The comments address health insurance coverage of adjunct faculty and student campus employees.

Five higher education associations also submitted comments to the Department of Health and Human Services regarding self-funded student health insurance plans under the ACA.

Read More:
Shared Responsibility for Employers Regarding Health Coverage (acenet.edu)
Comments on Self-Funded Student Health Insurance Plans 
(acenet.edu)