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Higher Education Policy Newsletter

February 4, 2020 — Lewis-Burke Associates LLC

A VIEW FROM WASHINGTON

January was abuzz with several regulatory updates impacting the oversight of higher education by the U.S. Department of Education (ED).  ED's Office for Civil Rights (OCR), will launch the Outreach, Prevention, Education and Non-discrimination (OPEN) Center to focus on compliance with federal civil rights laws.  In a press release announcing the Center, Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights Kenneth Marcus noted, "instead of waiting for violations to occur before responding, OCR will get in front of the problem, partnering with educators and other institutions to better protect students." 

ED also announced a proposed rule regarding the eligibility of faith-based entities to participate in ED grant programs and compliance with the First Amendment for all institutions of higher education.  The proposed rule is in part a follow-up to two Executive Orders issued by President Trump.  One established the White House Faith and Opportunity Initiative and the other, "Improving Free Inquiry, Transparency, and Accountability at Colleges and Universities," aims to ensure compliance with the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution as a material condition for receiving research and education grants.  The proposed rule states, "The Department will determine that a public institution has not complied with the First Amendment only if there is a final, non-default judgment by a State or Federal court that the public institution or an employee of the public institution, acting in his or her official capacity, violated the First Amendment."  Comments on the proposed rule must be received by the Department on or before February 18, 2020.  ED's efforts towards free speech and religious liberty are not likely to significantly impact institutions but may indicate an increased attention to these issues from the Department. 

Other regulations that are likely to be issued in the coming days include final regulations to implement Title IX and guidance around how institutions are to report foreign gifts and contracts under Section 117 of the Higher Education Act.  Additionally, the President's proposal for Fiscal Year 2021 funding for the U.S. Department of Education and student aid programs is expected to be released February 10.  Congress is likely, for the fourth consecutive year, to reject any proposed cuts. 

IN THIS ISSUE

CONGRESSIONAL UPDATES AND NEWS
Whither HEA?

Congressional Interest in Collegiate Athletics Grows

Legislative Bills of Note

ADMINISTRATION AND AGENCY UPDATES AND NEWS
Administration Announces Expanded Travel Ban

SBIR Update: The 2020 Phase I Program Solicitation Released

Undergraduate International Studies and Foreign Language Program

Open Grant Competitions at ED

NSF Encourages New Applicants to the Improving Undergraduate STEM Education Program

2020 PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION
Senator Amy Klobuchar’s “Many Paths to Success” Post-Secondary Education Plan

Mayor Mike Bloomberg Announces “All in Economy” Plan

FACTS AND FIGURES
Federal Student Aid: Updates Student Loan Portfolio Figures

WHAT WE'RE READING
NSF Science and Engineering Indicators

 

CONGRESSIONAL UPDATES AND NEWS 

Whither HEA?
Efforts to reauthorize the Higher Education Act (HEA) have experienced fits and starts over the course of last several Congresses.  The last comprehensive HEA reauthorization occurred in 2008 in the 110th Congress and efforts in the 115th (H.R. 4508, the PROSPER Act) and the 116th Congresses (H.R. 4674, the College Affordability Act) have been partisan affairs.  U.S. Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee Chairman Lamar Alexander (R-TN) has indicated significant interest in a bipartisan HEA reauthorization effort.  An HEA reauthorization would be a final jewel in the Chairman's education crown, having successfully worked with his HELP counterpart, Ranking Member Patty Murray (D-WA), to reauthorize the statutes governing K-12 education and career and technical education.  Despite the legacy potential, several factors are likely to frustrate reauthorization efforts. 

These include having two Democratic presidential candidates on the HELP Committee (Senators Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and Elizabeth Warren (D-MA)), continued differences of opinion on the implementation and promulgation of Title IX regulations, and disagreements on spending levels, among other issues.  A very likely scenario is that Senate negotiations will break down as the November presidential election approaches.  In turn, Chairman Alexander may introduce a legislative package that includes bills with bipartisan support, but will not be comprehensive in nature, which will not garner Democratic support.  The end of the year could see further efforts at FAFSA simplification.  The possibility of an HEA reauthorization in 2021 will likely depend on one party controlling the U.S. House, Senate, and the White House. 

Sources and Additional Information: 


Congressional Interest in Collegiate Athletics Grows
In December, Senators Mitt Romney (R-UT) and Chris Murphy (D-CT) announced the formation of a bipartisan Senate working group that will be discussing student athlete compensation, as well as other issues. Also of note, former university president and Secretary of Health and Human Services, Rep. Donna Shalala (D-FL), is pushing for the creation of a Congressional Commission to examine the NCAA and intercollegiate sports.  The commission would be tasked with reviewing the interaction between athletics and academics, athletics financing, athletic recruiting, athletic health and safety, and institutional oversight and regulation enforcement.   

The NCAA leadership has begun advocating for federal assistance to prevent the enactment of a patchwork of differing state laws on name, image, and likeness (NIL).   Several Members of Congress are publicly supportive of athletic compensation and expressed some interest in offering federal help on NIL, but a federal legislative path is still unclear. 

Sources and Additional Information: 


Legislative Bills of Note

  • S. 3155 (Senator Collins, R-ME) - Success for Rural Students and Communities Act.  This bill would establish a rural postsecondary and economic development grant program to build relationships between local businesses and schools. 
  • S. 3115 (Senator Enzi, R-WY) - Time for Completion Act.  This bill would amend the Higher Education Act of 1965 to provide for comprehensive student achievement information by changing the current requirement that institutions of higher education only report graduation rates for first-time, full-time students. 
  • H.R. 5528 (Rep. Shalala D-FL) - CACIA Act of 2019. This bill would establish a Congressional Advisory Commission on Intercollegiate Athletics to investigate the relationship between institutions of higher education and intercollegiate athletic programs. 
  • H.R. 5350 (Rep. Garcia, D-IL) - Diversifying by Investing in Educators and Students to Improve Outcomes for Youth (DIVERSIFY) Act.  This bill would increase the TEACH grant award to support students interested in becoming teachers, ensuring an education workforce that is more diverse.  
ADMINISTRATION AND AGENCY UPDATES AND NEWS

Administration Announces Expanded Travel Ban
The Trump Administration announced a new suite of country-specific restrictions on foreign nationals seeking entry into the U.S. The new “travel ban” expands to six new countries: Burma (Myanmar), Eritrea, Kyrgyzstan, Nigeria, Sudan, and Tanzania, under the justification of “identified deficiencies” in these countries information sharing and identity-management systems.  This new expansion will not “impose any nonimmigrant visa restrictions for the newly identified countries,” allowing for the continuation of student and H-1B visas of those countries.  The pre-existing entry restrictions on certain individuals from the previously restricted countries of Yemen, Libya, Venezuela, Somalia, Syria, Iran, and North Korea still stand.  The new restrictions go into effect on February 21. 

Sources and Additional Information:


SBIR Update: The 2020 Phase I Program Solicitation Released
The U.S. Department of Education (ED) released their 2020 Small Business Innovation Research Program (SBIR) Phase I Solicitation on January 16, 2020.  The purpose of the SBIR program is to stimulate technological innovation in the private sector, strengthen the role of small business in meeting ED research and development needs, and improving the return on investment from federally funded research. Phase I is to determine the scientific or technical merit of ideas submitted under the SBIR program.  

Proposals should concentrate on research and development that will establish the feasibility of the technological approach.  Awards under the SBIR Phase I program are for periods up to eight months and in amounts of up to $200,000.  Applications are due March 3, 2020.  

Sources and Additional Information: 


Undergraduate International Studies and Foreign Language Program
The purpose of the Undergraduate International Studies and Foreign Language (UISFL) Program is to provide funding to institutions of higher education and non-profit organizations to plan, develop, and carry out programs to improve instruction in foreign languages and international studies at the undergraduate level.  Competitions are held annually, however, are contingent on funding available.  The last competition was in Fiscal Year 2018, and the competition is currently open. Applications for Fiscal Year 2020 must be submitted on or before March 24, 2020.  

Source and Additional Information:  


Open Grant Competitions at ED
In addition to the SBIR and UISFL programs, the U.S. Department of Education (ED) has the following currently open grant competitions of note:


NSF Encourages New Applicants to the Improving Undergraduate STEM Education Program
The National Science Foundation (NSF) Education and Human Resources Directorate (EHR) is encouraging institutions that have not previously received funding from the Improving Undergraduate STEM Education (IUSE: EHR) program to apply.  A Dear Colleague Letter (DCL) from EHR's Division of Undergraduate Education specifically asks these institutions to consider submitting proposals to Level 1 of IUSE:EHR's “Engaged Student Learning” track.  Projects under this track “focus directly on students or serve students through faculty professional development and related activities,” such as “developing the STEM and STEM-related workforce, advancing a disciplinary STEM field, broadening participation in STEM, educating a STEM-literate public, improving K-12 STEM education through undergraduate preservice STEM teacher preparation, encouraging life-long learning, and/or building STEM capacity in higher education.”  

The DCL directs applicants to begin proposal titles with "New to IUSE: EHR DCL:" when responding.  The next deadline for IUSE:EHR Engaged Student Learning Level 1 proposals is August 4, 2020. 

Sources and Additional Information: 


2020 PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION

Senator Amy Klobuchar’s “Many Paths to Success” Post-Secondary Education Plan
Presidential candidate and Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) announced her post-secondary education plan will focus on championing tuition-free one-and-two year community college degrees and technical certifications, expanding apprenticeship opportunities, respecting the dignity of work by paying a living wage, and making it easier for Americans who need help affording four-year degrees.  She also plans to improve tax incentives for retraining and post-secondary education, adapt high school curricula to improve workforce readiness and post-secondary success, double the maximum Pell Grant and expand eligibility to families making up to $100,000 per year, fix the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program, and simplify the financial aid process.  To pay for her post-secondary education plan, Senator Klobuchar will raise the capital gains and dividends rate for people in the top two income tax brackets and implement a 30 percent minimum tax for people with incomes over $1 million.  

Sources and Additional Information: 

 

Mayor Mike Bloomberg Announces “All in Economy” Plan
Former New York City Mayor and presidential candidate Mike Bloomberg (D) released his “All in Economy” plan, which includes a series of initiatives focused on education and workforce issues.  Mayor Bloomberg plans to make education and training a national priority by investing in states, community and technical colleges, and others to work with employers to build and strengthen career-training systems.  He has also called for greater federal investment in community colleges, expanding registered apprenticeships, the expansion of Pell grants to cover short-term training programs, and education for incarcerated individuals.  Mayor Bloomberg also indicated he would sign an executive order streamlining 43 existing federal workforce training programs and have his Vice President work with states and community colleges on worker training.  Mayor Bloomberg did not indicate how much his plan would cost or how he would pay for it.  

Sources and Additional Information: 


FACTS AND FIGURES

Federal Student Aid: Updates Student Loan Portfolio Figures

Sources and Additional Information:


WHAT WE'RE READING

NSF Science and Engineering Indicators
“The State of U.S. Science and Engineering shows that the U.S. S&E enterprise continues to advance along several dimensions.  The United States continues to perform the largest share of global research and development (R&D), generate the largest share of R&D-intensive industry output globally, award the largest number of S&E doctoral degrees, and account for significant shares of S&E research articles and citations worldwide.  However, other nations, particularly China, are rapidly developing their science and technology (S&T) capacity.  The changing global landscape affects the position of the United States relative to the other major global players.  For example, the United States has seen its relative share of global S&T activity remain unchanged or shrink, even as its absolute activity levels have continued to rise.” 

Sources and Additional Information:

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