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Higher Education Policy Newsletter

August 2, 2019 — Lewis Burke Associates LLC

A VIEW FROM WASHINGTON

The U.S. Department of Education (ED) warned that an identified 62 colleges and universities were affected by a recent cyber attack. The attack targeted a vulnerability in the “Banner” products sold by the company Ellucian. The vulnerability was used to create hundreds of fraudulent student profiles, which were then “leveraged almost immediately for criminal activity.” While a patch fixing the vulnerability has been released, universities using the Ellucian Banner system are encouraged to contact the ED's Federal Student Aid Cyber Incident Team who can help identify if they were affected.  

ED continues to investigate universities for potential failure to report foreign gifts under Section 117 of the Higher Education Act.  In letters to the universities, the Department of Education focused its wide-ranging inquiry on contact and exchanges with Chinese, Russian, and Qatari institutions, including Chinese organizations Huawei, ZTE, and Hanban. The American Council on Education (ACE) and several higher education associations have written to ED seeking further clarification and guidance on reporting requirements and scope under Section 117. 

ED announced on July 22 that the 2016 final rules on state authorization took effect—by court order—on May 26, 2019, and that California specifically does not meet the regulatory requirements in the final rules for students enrolled in distance education or correspondence programs.  States are reuquired to have a complaint system or be part of a reciprocity agreement Recently, California created a system that would meet ED's requirements, although ED has not officially commented on whether the system is compliant.

Congress passed and the President is expected to sign an agreement to raise the budget caps and avoid the final two years of automatic spending cuts for fiscal years (FY) 2020 and 2021. The deal would raise the non-defense budget caps to $621.5 billion for FY 2020 and $626.5 billion for FY 2021.  Non-defense funding is used to support student aid and other education and research programs. 

IN THIS ISSUE

CONGRESSIONAL UPDATES AND NEWS

Education Committee Considers Teacher Prep and Apprenticeships

House Judiciary Holds Hearing on Policy Changes and Processing Delays at USCIS

Legislative Bills of Note

ADMINISTRATION AND AGENCY UPDATES AND NEWS
New Proposed Grant Priority at ED and Forthcoming IES Survey

NEH Announces Grant to Organize National Convenings on Civics and American History K-12 Education

Robert King Confirmed as Head of Postsecondary Education

2020 PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION
Amy Klobuchar Expands on Education Plan

Pete Buttigieg Releases Public Service Plan

FACTS AND FIGURES

Trends in Percentage of Costs Covered by Pell Grants

WHAT WE'RE READING
Manhattan Institute: How to Make Student Debt Affordable and Equitable


CONGRESSIONAL UPDATES AND NEWS

Education Committee Considers Teacher Prep and Apprenticeships 

The House Education and Labor Committee held hearings in July on teachers and apprenticeships.  The July 17 hearing “Educating our Educators: How Federal Policy Can Better Support Teachers and School Leaders" focused on teacher and school leader preparation.  Subcommittee on Higher Education and Workforce Investment Chairwoman Susan Davis (D-CA) remarked, "Despite the clear benefits of strong school leadership for both teachers and students, school leader preparation receives little attention compared to teacher preparation."  Several other committee members and witnesses addressed the issue of expanding support for teacher preparation programs in the Higher Education Act to include school leaders.  Increasing support for teacher residency programs, particularly through the Teacher Quality Partnership (TQP) grant program, was also echoed by members and witnesses. 

On July 16, the Higher Education and Workforce Investment Subcommittee held a hearing "Scaling Up Apprenticeships: Building on the Success of International Apprenticeship Models."  Witnesses from Australia, Germany, and Switzerland discussed how apprenticeships are utilized in their respective countries.  Committee members noted the higher utilization of apprenticeships in other countries and the importance of government investment in the apprenticeship system.  Witnesses also noted the importance of the connection between industry and higher education in supporting apprenticeships. 

Sources and Additional Information: 

 

House Judiciary Holds Hearing on Policy Changes and Processing Delays at USCIS 

On July 16, the Immigration and Citizenship Subcommittee of the House Judiciary Committee reviewed the impact of policy changes on the backlog of visa and citizenship applications at the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).   

Witnesses from USCIS were asked multiple times to explain the causes of delays.  USCIS officials pointed to the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) policy as a cause of the backlog.  Additionally, recent policies requiring more stringent vetting through in-person interviews and multiple security checks were cited as contributing factors.  The officials noted that the vetting policies have increased the number of fraud investigations, requiring review of previously completed filings.  Subcommittee Chairwoman Zoe Lofgren (D-CA) asked about H-1B Visas and Optional Practical Training (OPT) under F1 Visas. OPT applications are at times not approved until the internship has already ended.   

Sources and Additional Information: 

Legislative Bills of Note  

H.R. 3827 (Rep. Castro, D-TX)- HERE Act. This bill would create a grant program to encourage collaboration between school districts with a majority of Hispanic students and Hispanic-Serving Institutions (HSIs), providing academic support for the preparation of students for college and beyond.  

S. 2024 (Sen. Cornyn, R-TX)- USA Civics Act of 2019. The bill will authorize federal grants for universities and colleges to improve and develop programs involving history, democracy, and civic life. 

H.R. 3418 (Rep. Chu, D-CA)- Protecting Our Students by Terminating Graduate Rates that Add to Debt (POST GRAD) ActThe bill would reinstate access to federal subsidized student loans for graduate students.  Access to these loans was previously ended in 2012 by the Budget Control Act of 2011.  

S. 2124 (Sen. Hawley, R-MO)-  Skin in the Game Act. This bill would require institutions of higher education to pay off 50 percent of the balance of student loans for students who default.  The bill would also prevent institutions from increasing the cost of attendance.

ADMINISTRATION AND AGENCY UPDATES AND NEWS

New Proposed Grant Priority at ED and Forthcoming IES Survey 

On July 29, the Department of Education (ED) released notice of a proposed priority for its discretionary grant programs, which would focus on Qualified Opportunity Zones.   Qualified Opportunity Zones are officially designated census tract areas with high levels of poverty.  ED is seeking to encourage projects or applicants located in these Opportunity Zones via a priority preference in ED discretionary grant competitions, which will elevate a new priority which ED has already begun to preview in this year’s competitions.  A list and searchable map with the exact locations of the Opportunity Zones can be found at www.cdfifund.gov/​Pages/​Opportunity-Zones.aspx .  ED is seeking public comment on the proposed priority by August 28, 2019. 

This past month, ED’s Institute of Education Sciences (IES) announced it would be surveying graduate student and postdoc participants in IES funded research training programs with aims to improve the programs.  IES is soliciting comments on the proposed survey through September 16, 2019.

Sources and Additional Information:

 

NEH Announces Grant to Organize National Convenings on Civics and American History K-12 Education 

The National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) in partnership with the U.S. Department of Education’s (ED) American History and Civics Education—National Activities program recently released a funding opportunity for a cooperative agreement to support two national convenings on improving best practices in the teaching of American history, civics, and government education in K-12 education. The awarded institution will also be expected to publish a report on the findings and hold a national forum in Washington, D.C. to launch the development and implementation of a robust publicity strategy to educators and the general public. 

The purpose of the convenings will be to address the key needs, priority gaps, and achievement gaps in K-12 civic education. Proposals should consider broad applicability (demographic, technological, and economic diversity) and prioritize a detailed dissemination plan.  Proposals are due on August 12, 2019 and a single award of $650,000 will be granted.  

Sources and Additional Information:

Robert King Confirmed as Head of Postsecondary Education  

After a Senate confirmation vote in mid-July, Robert “Bob” King became Assistant Secretary for the Office of Postsecondary Education at the U.S. Department of Education (ED).  Mr. King, who has been in a special assistant role at ED since his nomination by President Trump, was previously President of the Kentucky Council on Postsecondary Education and Chancellor of the State University of New York (SUNY) system.  The Office of Postsecondary Education administers numerous grant programs at the Department, including the minority-serving institution grant programs, the international and foreign language grant programs and the TRIO and GEAR UP programs.   

Sources and Additional Information: 

 


2020 PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION

Amy Klobuchar Expands on Education Plan

Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) expanded on her original education plans in early July while speaking before the National Education Association.  While she has previously stated that she does not support free four-year college, she would plan to make tuition-free two-year community college and technical certifications part of her presidential agenda in the first 100 days.  Klobuchar would also move to allow students to refinance their student loans, develop loan forgiveness for high demand jobs, and expand Pell grant eligibility and value. 


Pete Buttigieg Releases Public Service Plan

Presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg has recently released a full plan for public service entitled “A New Call to Service.”  Under this plan, opportunities for service domestically and abroad would be expanded to 1 million positions, over thirteen times the current number by 2026. The program would be targeted toward high school, community college, vocational, HBCUs and MSI students, and opportunity youth, but would have a broad goal of creating a culture of service for all.  New service corps would be established in the fields of healthcare, climate and conservation, and intergenerational service.  While the positions would be paid, they would also count toward the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program (PSLF).  The proposal would not significantly modify how service is currently counted under PSLF. 


FACTS AND FIGURES


Trends in Percentage of Costs Covered by Pell Grants

Source: http://nces.ed.gov/pubsearch/pubsinfo.asp?pubid=2019489 

 


WHAT WE'RE READING

Manhattan Institute: How to Make Student Debt Affordable and Equitable

“This paper proposes a plan to simplify the system by providing all eligible students with a single $50,000 line of credit, with repayments structured as an income-share agreement (ISA). Borrowers would remit a small fraction of their earnings to the government on their income taxes, capped at 1.75 times the amount borrowed and for a maximum term of 25 years."

Source: https://www.manhattan-institute.org/replacing-federal-student-loan-program

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