December 9, 2013

In Today’s Issue:

  • This Week in Washington
  • House Approves Innovation Act
  • House Science Committee Approves Transfer Act
  • Letters Urge Relief From Sequester
  • AAU Outlines Views on Administration’s Proposed College Rating System
  • ACE Report: Veteran Students Study Harder, But Less Engaged in Campus Life

The House and Senate are both in session this week – the only week they are scheduled to be so this month.

Budget: Tuesday, the leaders of the budget conference are expected to announce a framework for a two-year budget deal giving both chambers enough time to pass the agreement prior to the House’s target adjournment on Friday. The expected deal is not expected to significantly reduce the debt, close tax loopholes, or address entitlement reform.  It is expected to partially repeal the sequester.

Unemployment Insurance: Unemployment benefits are set to lapse on December 28. Democrats are attempting to link an extension of the benefits to the budget deal.

Defense Authorization: The Senate will continue debating the National Defense Authorization Act. Senators have yet to resolve issues regarding sanctions on Iran, sexual assault in the military, and detainees at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

Supreme Court: 
Will hear arguments on two cases challenging the government’s power to require states to prevent their air pollution from affecting their neighbors.

White House: President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama will join leaders and dignitaries from across the globe in South Africa to attend memorial services for Nelson Mandela.

Economy: On Wednesday, the Treasury releases its monthly budget statement, including the nation’s deficit. On Thursday, the retail sales for November come out, giving a stronger picture of Black Friday spending patterns. Expect some continuing conversation over the Fed’s monetary policy following Friday’s job report.

Read More:
Senate faces difficult work on budget, farm bill, defense spending (CBS News)
Budget Deal Expected this Week Amounts to a Cease-Fire as Sides Move to Avert a Standoff (Washington Post)
Monday round-up (SCOTUSblog)
Barack and Michelle Obama to Attend Service for Nelson Mandela in South Africa (Huffington Post)
It’s A Light Week for the Economy (Business Insider)


The House of Representatives last week approved the Innovation Act (H.R. 3309), legislation that is aimed at reducing abusive patent litigation but contains a number of provisions that the higher ed community believes could undermine legitimate patent rights.  The vote was 325 to 91.

The six higher education associations that have worked together on patent reform expressed support for the goals of H.R. 3309 but opposed it out of concern that “the cumulative impact of a number of the provisions of this bill would seriously undermine the ability of legitimate patent holders to enforce their patent rights.”

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-VT) has scheduled a December 17 hearing on a similar bill, the Patent Transparency and Improvements Act (S. 1720).

Read More:
Higher Ed Associations’ Statement Opposing H.R. 3309 (pdf)
House Passes Innovation Act (

The House Science, Space and Technology Committee on December 5 approved the Technology and Research Accelerating National Security and Future Economic Resiliency (TRANSFER) Act of 2013 (H.R. 2981).  Higher ed organizations strongly support the measure, which the committee approved by voice vote.

The TRANSFER Act would allow federal agencies to dedicate a small portion of their Small Business Technology Transfer funds to creating “proof of concept” and other innovative technology transfer programs.  In a letter to key committee members, AAU and other organizations expressed support for the measure, which is aimed at improving the process of translating basic research discoveries into the marketplace.

Other organizations that have endorsed the TRANSFER Act include: APLU, the American Council on Education, the Association of American Medical Colleges, the Association of Independent Research Institutes, the Association of University Research Parks, the Association of University Technology Managers, the State Science and Technology Institute, Battelle, SRI International, and the National Venture Capital Association.

Read More:
TRANSFER Act Looks to Close Gap Between Laboratory and Marketplace (
Letter in Support of TRANSFER Act (pdf)

The Task Force on American Innovation (TFAI) and NDD United both sent letters to members of Congress last week to urge relief from the sequester.

TFAI letter:  TFAI sent a letter to the co-chairs of the FY14 budget conference committee urging them to reach an agreement that “provides relief from the sequester and helps close our nation’s innovation deficit by ensuring sustained and robust support for scientific research and STEM education.”  The letter goes on to say. “The many companies, universities, and scientific societies represented by the Task Force agree that unless we change course, America’s role as the world innovation leader will be in danger and our future prospects for economic growth bleak.”

NDD United: Under the auspices of NDD United, a group of 470 organizations sent a letter to every Member of Congress on December 4 urging them to replace sequestration with a “bipartisan, balanced approach to deficit reduction.” The letter says that funding for the nondefense discretionary (NDD) portion of the federal budget has dropped by nearly 18 percent in inflation-adjusted dollars since 2010 levels, “bring[ing] funding for NDD programs as a share of our economy to the lowest level on record, with data going back to 1976.”

Read More:
TFAI Letter (pdf)
NDD United Letter (pdf)

AAU submitted a comment letter to the Department of Education on December 2 regarding the President’s “Plan to Make College More Affordable: A Better Bargain for the Middle Class,” released last August.  The comments focus on the “Paying for Performance” section of the plan, which calls for creating a new college rating system by 2015 and linking it to federal student aid by 2018.   Specifically, the letter addresses general feedback on ratings systems; data sources and definitional issues; and concerns related to defining peer groups.

In preparing the comment letter, AAU staff consulted with AAU institutional research officers and other campus experts. Those individuals provided advice on the reliability, validity, and methodological limitations of the metrics proposed in the President’s plan related to access, affordability, and outcomes.

Read More:
Comment Letter – Plan to Make College More Affordable (pdf)

According to a new report from ACE in collaboration with the National Survey of Student Engagement, student veterans/service members are more likely to be the first in their family to attend college, are older, and are more selective about their campus life and academic activities. Their life responsibilities outside the classroom can put restraints on their time, and despite efforts by colleges and universities, they report feeling slightly less supported on campus than nonveteran/civilian students. 

Read More:
Veteran Students Study Harder, But Are Less Engaged in Campus Life, Says New ACE Report (