DC Digest – September 2, 2014

In Today’s Issue:

  • New Secretary of Veterans Affairs Visits Duke
  • Higher Ed Associations Submit Comments on Draft Senate HEA Bill
  • Faculty Survey Shows Researchers Still Spending Significant Time on Administration
  • Senators Introduce Legislation to Introduce “Manufacturing Universities”
  • Biosafety: U.S. Pathogen Inventory Request Won’t Include Research Pause
  • Ed Department Strengthens Federal Student Loan Servicing


NEW SECRETARY OF VETERANS AFFAIRS VISITS DUKE
Robert A. McDonald, Secretary of Veterans Affairs, visited Duke on Friday, as part of his cross-country tour to encourage physicians and other health care providers to work with veterans at VA medical centers.  The trip to Duke was his first visit to a university since being sworn in in July.

During his visit to campus, Secretary McDonald also had the opportunity to meet with President Brodhead, where the two discussed a variety of topics related to veterans, including healthcare, education benefits, and the exponential growth of Duke’s student veteran population.  Duke students using veterans or military benefits are currently enrolled in every school at the university.

McDonald sat on the Board of Visitors for the Fuqua School of Business from 2005-2012, serving as chair of the board in 2011-12.

Read More:
Twitter Pic
VA Secretary Makes Medical Recruitment Pitch at Duke (heraldsun)


HIGHER ED ASSOCIATIONS SUBMIT COMMENTS ON DRAFT SENATE HEA REAUTHORIZATION BILL

On behalf of numerous higher education associations, the American Council of Education submitted comments on August 29 to Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA), chairman of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee, on his draft legislation to reauthorize the Higher Education Act (HEA).

The letter identify proposals where the community shares broad consensus (year-round Pell, simplification of repayment practices), where it shares concerns (universal net price calculator, single financial aid award letter), and where it has differing viewpoints (unit record database, publicly available accreditation documents).

One broad point highlighted in the letter is the importance of “rigorously examining the need for each regulatory and legislative requirement in the HEA. There is a sizable and complex federal regulatory structure and its impact on U.S. colleges and universities is significant, with substantial compliance costs and challenges for institutions and little evidence that new requirements placed on institutions provide any further benefits to taxpayers.”

AAU sent a separate letter commenting on the draft proposal that also endorses ACE’s letter.

Read More:
HE Community Letter on Harkin HEA Discussion Draft (ACE)
AAU Comments on Draft HEA Bill (AAU.edu)
Chairman Harkin Releases Discussion Draft to Reauthorize Higher Education Act (help.senate.gov)

 

FACULTY SURVEY SHOWS RESEARCHERS STILL SPENDING SIGNIFICANT TIME ON ADMINISTRATION
Faculty researchers are spending an average of 42 percent of their research time on federal projects meeting administrative requirements rather than on active research, according to the latest faculty workload survey conducted by the Federal Demonstration Partnership (FDP). The report of the organization’s 2012 survey, released with preliminary results in April and in final form in early August, shows little change from the organization’s 2005 survey.

The FDP queried more than 13,000 principal investigators at universities and research centers around the country. Respondents reported that most of the time they spent on administrative work was taken up by proposal and report writing; dealing with project finances, personnel, and federally required effort reporting; and complying with requirements associated with human and animal research subjects.

Read More:
Faculty Workload Survey (nationalacademies.org)

SENATORS INTRODUCE LEGISLATION TO DESIGNATE “MANUFACTURING UNIVERSITIES”
Senators Chris Coons (D-DE) and Lindsey Graham (R-SC) have introduced the Manufacturing Universities Act of 2014 (S. 2719), a bill they said would help universities strengthen their engineering programs to meet the demands of 21st century manufacturing. Under the legislation, the National Institute of Standards and Technology would designate 25 universities as “Manufacturing Universities” and, according to an August 11 press release, “provide incentives to better align educational offerings with the needs of modern manufacturers. The incentives would be used to revamp universities’ engineering programs to focus on manufacturing engineering and curricula specifically related to targeted industries.”

The press release states that the legislation would provide designated universities $5 million per year for four years to meet specific goals, including focusing engineering programs on manufacturing, building new partnerships with manufacturing firms, growing training opportunities, and fostering manufacturing entrepreneurship.

Read More:
Senator Coons Introduces Bipartisan Bill to Designate Manufacturing Universities (coons.senate.gov)


BIOSAFETY: U.S. PATHOGEN INVENTORY REQUEST WON’T INCLUDE RESEARCH PAUSE

In the wake of several high-profile laboratory safety incidents involving smallpox, anthrax, and dangerous flu strains, the U.S. government will ask federally funded laboratories to inventory pathogens and review safety practices.

This call to action does not just include Select Agents or high-consequence pathogens, but rather all pathogens. In addition, OSTP notes that a pause or suspension of research is not necessary to conduct the recommended inventory of pathogens or review of biosafety practices.  The agency is suggesting a month of focus on best practices in biosafety, as part of the normal conduct of biomedical research. According to the NIH notice, the agency will be following up with letters to institutional IBC’s and Biological Safety Officers.

Read More:
U.S. Pathogen Inventory Request Won’t Include Research Pause (sciencemag.org)
Notice of National Biosafety Stewardship Month and Health and Safety Requirements for NIH Grantees (nih.gov)


ED DEPARTMENT STRENGTHENS FEDERAL STUDENT LOAN SERVICING

The U.S. Department of Education announced on August 29 several new steps to help federal student loan borrowers better manage their student debt. Following up on the commitments outlined by President Obama in June (found here: www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2014/06/09/factsheet-making-student-loans-more-affordable), the Department has renegotiated the terms of its contracts with federal student loan servicers in order to strengthen incentives for them to provide excellent customer service and help borrowers stay up-to-date on their payments.

Secretary Duncan has also directed Under Secretary Ted Mitchell to explore additional actions the Department could take that will strengthen the federal student loan program.

Read More:
U.S. Department of Education Strengthens Student Loan Servicing (ed.gov)