DC Digest – May 10, 2013

In Today’s Issue:

  • Editorial: Is Any Science Safe?
  • Higher Education Associations Weigh In on Comprehensive Immigration Reform
  • Lawmakers Propose Long-Term Solutions for Student Loan Interest Rates
  • ACE Publication: Does Federal Financial Aid Drive Up College Prices?
  • Collegiate Inventors Competition Accepting Entries for 2013
  • National Humanities Alliance to Host Hill Briefing on May 16
  • President Obama Praises University System as “Crown Jewel” of Economy and Civilization
  • OSTP Director Affirms Administration’s Support for Basic Research
  • Higher Ed Associations Endorse House and Senate Higher Ed Tax Bills
  • Spotlight on Duke in Washington
  • Duke OFR has Moved

A new Science editorial reviews the danger to all science of Congress attempting to micromanage specific research grants and the peer review process:

“This month, the U.S. National Science Foundation (NSF) will apply two criteria in its review of research proposals: intellectual merit and impact. One discipline, however, will have to meet a further test. In March, at the urging of U.S. Senator Tom Coburn (R-OK), Congress halted funding for political science—“except for” research that the agency’s director certifies as “promoting national security or the economic interests of the United States.” This extra test might not stop with political science.”

Read More:
Is Any Science Safe? (sciencemag.org)


A group of 13 higher education associations sent a letter to leaders of the Senate Judiciary Committee on May 8 regarding the comprehensive immigration reform bill (S. 744) that the committee began marking up yesterday.  The markup is expected to last several days.

The associations’ letter expresses appreciation to Senators Patrick Leahy (D-VT) and Charles Grassley (R-IA) for their bipartisan work to move comprehensive immigration reform.  The associations offer their support for such aspects of the bill as:

•    inclusion of the Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors (DREAM) Act, which offers a path to permanent residency for those brought to this country illegally as
•    an exemption from the cap on employment-based green cards for those who have earned an advanced science or engineering degree;
•    a provision allowing H-1B recipients to revalidate their temporary visas in the U.S. rather than having to return to their home country; and
•    removal of the current requirement that students prove they will return home after completing their studies.

The associations also express concern that the bill defines science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) degrees too narrowly and suggests using instead the broader Department of Homeland Security definition.  They also urge that the bill exempt higher education institutions from the proposed new fees for STEM labor certification and J-1 visas.

Duke officials are actively engaged in advocating for reform that will be most favorable for higher education interests and will continue to provide updates as they become available.

Read More:
Higher Ed Associations Weigh in on CIR (pdf)


Members of Congress introduced two bills on Thursday that propose long-term fixes to keep student-loan interest rates affordable, even as some legislators pushed to extend the current low rates.

With less than two months remaining before rates are set to double on federally subsidized Stafford loans, calls have mounted for an overhaul of the student-loan system. Unless Congress acts by July 1, interest rates will increase from 3.4 percent to 6.8 percent.

One bill—introduced on Thursday by two Democratic senators (Jack Reed of Rhode Island and Richard J. Durbin of Illinois) and two Democratic representatives (John F. Tierney of Massachusetts and Joe Courtney of Connecticut)—would set interest rates based on the 91-day Treasury bill plus a percentage determined by the secretary of education to cover program-administration and borrower-benefit costs.

Another bill, introduced on Thursday by two House Republican leaders—John P. Kline Jr. of Minnesota and Virginia Foxx of North Carolina—would switch to a market-based rate that would be set annually, similar to what President Obama proposed in his 2014 budget.

Duke officials continue to be engaged on this issue.

Read More:
Lawmakers Propose Long-Term Solutions for Student-Loan Interest Rates (Chronicle of Higher Ed)
Reed Joins RWU Students to Tackle Student Debt Crisis (Reed.senate.gov)
Kline, Foxx Introduce Market-Based Student Loan Interest Rate Legislation (edworkforce.house.gov)

ACE released a new paper this week that finds scant evidence of a relationship between changes in federal student aid and tuition increases.

Written by Donald E. Heller for ACE, Does Federal Financial Aid Drive Up College Prices? examines the research on the so-called “Bennett Hypothesis,” which stems from a 1987 New York Times op-ed by former Secretary of Education William Bennett. He suggested that the availability of federal student loans, and in particular subsidized loans, provides “cover” for institutions to raise tuition because students can offset any price increase with these loans.

Dr. Heller, who is dean of the College of Education at Michigan State University, gives a brief overview of federal financial aid programs, recent trends in tuition and the economic theory behind financial aid and tuition, and then reviews some of the major interpretations of the Bennett Hypothesis advanced over the years.

Read More:
Does Federal Financial Aid Drive Up College Prices (pdf)
Our Greedy Colleges – 1987 NY Times Op-Ed (New York Times)

The Collegiate Inventors Competition is accepting entries for the 2013 Competition. The deadline for submitting entries is Friday, June 14, 2013.

For the last 23 years, the Collegiate Inventors Competition has recognized and honored student inventors whose inventions one day could make significant contributions to society. The competition is sponsored by the Kauffman Foundation, Abbott, and the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. This year, more than $65,000 in cash prizes will be awarded to the winning undergraduate and graduate students and their advisors.

All finalists in the competition will receive an all-expense paid trip to the final judging round taking place in Washington, DC and the opportunity to have their work reviewed by inductees of the National Inventors Hall of Fame.

Read More:
2013 Collegiate Inventors Competition (invent.org)

The National Humanities Alliance, in cooperation with the Congressional Humanities Caucus, will host a briefing on Capitol Hill on May 16: Addressing National Security and Other Global Challenges through Cultural Understanding: A Briefing on the Humanities in the 21st Century.

This timely briefing will feature the following panelists:

Carter V. Findley, an expert on Turkey and the modern Middle East, is Humanities Distinguished Professor in the History Department, Ohio State University.

Alexander Huang, an expert on China and globalization, is Associate Professor of English, International Affairs, Theatre, and East Asian Languages and Literatures, George Washington University.

Eli Sugarman, a Truman Security Fellow, is Senior Director at Gryphon Partners LLC, an advisory and investment firm that counsels leading international business and non-profit organizations on market entry, dispute avoidance, and strategic communications in Afghanistan, Iraq, and the broader Middle East.

Read More:
Invitation (nhalliance.org)

Last week, President Obama joined the members of the National Academy of Sciences to celebrate the 150th anniversary of that body. In his remarks on April 29, Obama called the nation’s university system “the crown jewel of our economy as well as our civilization.”

The President also decried the research cuts forced by the budget sequester, expressed strong support for continued investment in the social sciences, discussed the importance of ensuring that young people are excited about the sciences, and called for protecting “our rigorous peer review system.”

His speech, as well as the follow-up presentation given by White House Science Advisor John Holdren at a May 2 American Association for the Advancement of Science meeting (see next item), was in contrast to recent congressional attacks on the social and behavioral sciences and interest among some in Congress in adding new requirements to the peer review system.

Read More:
President Obama Celebrates the 150th Anniversary of the National Academy of Sciences (whitehouse.gov)
President Obama’s Remarks (c-span.org)


Presidential science advisor John Holdren had sharp words last week in response to several related congressional actions:  the inclusion of language in the FY13 continuing resolution that requires the NSF director to certify that any political science research that the agency funds demonstrate national security or economic value; a recent draft proposal in the House aimed at adding extra criteria to the NSF grant review process; and a letter from House Science, Space, and Technology Committee Chairman Lamar Smith (R-TX) sent to the leadership of NSF asking for background information on five specific NSF grants.

Because basic research by its very nature tries to expand knowledge without special considerations for practical applications, proposed restrictions “would throw the basic research baby out with the bathwater,” said Holdren in his keynote address at the AAAS Science & Technology Policy Forum on 2 May.

Read More:
OSTP Director Affirms Administration’s Support for Basic Research (AAAS.org)


Several higher education associations have endorsed House and Senate legislation to streamline and make permanent the American Opportunity Tax Credit (AOTC), which permits certain families to take a tax credit for some college tuition payments.

A group of six associations  sent a letter to Senator Charles Schumer (D-NY) on April 17 expressing support for his legislation, S. 835.  The six were joined by three other higher education associations in sending a similar letter of support on April 30 to Rep. Lloyd Doggett (D-TX) for his bill, H.R. 1738.

Both bills would consolidate the current AOTC with the Lifetime Learning Credit into one simplified, permanent AOTC that would provide up to $2,500 per year in tax relief for students and their families.  The bills also would replace the current limit on the number of years a student can use the AOTC with a $15,000 lifetime cap, make the credit refundable up to 40 percent of its value, and better coordinate the interaction of the credit with the Pell Grant.

Senator Schumer’s bill has seven cosponsors; Rep. Doggett’s bill has 72 cosponsors.

Read More:
Letter to Schumer – Endorsement of AOTC Permanence and Consolidation Act (pdf)
Higher Ed Associations Urge Lawmakers to Support Higher Ed Tax Provisions (ACEnet.edu)


April and early May saw many exciting activities at Duke in Washington, including the successful close of the inaugural semester of Duke in DC, the Sanford School of Public Policy’s undergraduate academic program.

A highlight of the program? A couple of the Duke in DC students had the opportunity to present their research project on genetic testing and patent policy to the Sanford Board of Visitors meeting that was held in the Duke in Washington offices in mid-April.  DIW was thrilled to welcome Bruce Kunilholm, current dean of the Sanford School, incoming dean Kelly Brownell, and the rest of the Sanford BOV to our offices in DC.

Duke in Washington staff also supported congressional hearings, briefings, and report releases of Bill Chameides, Dean of the Nicholas School of the Environment;  Dr. Elizabeth Frankenburg, professor of public policy; and Nancy Andrews, Dean of the Duke School of Medicine.

Finally, check out the twitpic of a gift given to Duke in Washington by a certain football coach who visited DC this week: https://twitter.com/DukeFedRel/status/332155058940694528/photo/1.


The Duke University Office of Federal Affairs has recently moved to the American Tobacco Complex. We are now located in Suite 920 of 324 Blackwell Street. All phone numbers remain the same.