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This message was prepared by Lewis-Burke Associates LLC.

January 2019 | Lewis-Burke Associates LLC
A VIEW FROM WASHINGTON

The 116th Congress was sworn in on January 3 as Democrats took control of the U.S. House of Representatives and Republicans maintained control of the Senate.  The new power split has made any resolution to the ongoing partial government shutdown even less certain.  While the financial aid and grant programs operated by the U.S. Department of Education have received funding for the remainder of the fiscal year (FY) 2019, other agencies of interest to higher education, such as the National Science Foundation, remain unfunded and have either closed or partially shutdown. 

The U.S. House committee with oversight of education policy, with the restored moniker, the Education and Labor Committee, will be led this Congress by Chairman Bobby Scott (D-VA).  Rep. Virginia Foxx (R-NC) will move into the Ranking Member position.  In the Senate, Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee Chairman Lamar Alexander (R-TN) will retain his top leadership post.  Chairman Alexander announced in late December his intention to retire from the Senate at the end of 2020, which may incentivize him to finalize a reauthorization of the Higher Education Act (HEA) this Congress.  Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA) will keep her Ranking Member slot on the Committee.  The HELP Committee has also picked up Sen. Mitt Romney (R-UT), Sen. Mike Braun (R-IN) and Sen. Jacky Rosen (D-NV) as new members.
 
For education funding, Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) has become the Chairwoman of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education, while Rep. Tom Cole (R-OK) is expected to become Ranking Member.  In the Senate, education appropriations leadership remains the same with Chairman Roy Blunt (R-MO) and Ranking Member Patty Murray.
 

 
IN THIS ISSUE

CONGRESSIONAL UPDATES AND NEWS
Congress Passes Bill Authorizing NSF STEM Apprenticeships
Higher Education Policy Legislative Update
China Continues to Concern Congress

ADMINISTRATION AND AGENCY UPDATES AND NEWS
Secretary DeVos Meets with Higher Ed Community
ED Cancels Student Loan Debt, Restarts Overhaul of Student Loan System
Coming Soon: FY 2019 IFLE Program Competitions/MSI Designation
Administration Releases Update to STEM Strategic Plan
Insights into ED’s Inspector General Plan

FACTS AND FIGURES
Business Roundtable Report on Economic Impact of OPT Program

WHAT WE'RE READING
IES Planning New Support of Broad Replication Studies
 
CONGRESSIONAL UPDATES AND NEWS

Congress Passes Bill Authorizing NSF STEM Apprenticeships
As part of the year-end activities, Congress passed the Innovations in Mentoring, Training, and Apprenticeships Act (H.R. 5509) on December 20.  The bill, which the President has since signed into law, authorizes a few new grant programs within the National Science Foundation (NSF) as well as calls for federal analysis of the skilled technical workforce.  The newly authorized NSF programs include grants for community colleges to develop STEM programming, grants for institutions of higher education and private industry partners to develop “apprenticeships, internships, research opportunities, or applied learning experiences” in STEM fields, and grants for institutions and non-profit groups to research best practices in online STEM education programming.   While these programs are now legally authorized, NSF ultimately will determine when and how to craft these new funding opportunities.

Higher Education Policy Legislative Update
In the closing weeks of the 115th Congress, many members introduced education-related bills.  Although these bills all expired at the end of 2018, many of them will be reintroduced in the 116th Congress and may be worked into a bipartisan Higher Education Act (HEA) reauthorization effort.  Several bills of relevance to the higher education community are detailed below:
  • H.R. 7286, 21st Century American Service Act:  This bill was introduced by Rep. Seth Moulton (D-MA).  The bill would establish a 21st Century National Service Program and a task force to implement the program.  The program would be focused on ensuring that all eligible individuals who wish to participate in a national service opportunity, such as the Peace Corps or military service, are able to.  It would establish 250,000 tax-exempt educational awards at double the current award amount for national service volunteers, and direct this task force to form agreements with states to allow these educational awards to be used for public higher education.
  • H.R. 7302, Providing Resources to Improve Dual Language Education (PRIDE) Act of 2018:  This bill was introduced by Rep. Raúl Grijalva (D-AZ), a member of the House Education and Labor Committee.  The bill would authorize the Secretary of Education to award up to five grants totaling up to $15 million to partnerships of local educational agencies, early childhood education programs, and others for the establishment of dual language education programs in low-income communities.
  • H.R. 7303, Protecting Financial Aid for Students and Taxpayers Act:  This bill was introduced by Rep. Raúl Grijalva (D-AZ), a member of the House Education and Labor Committee.  The bill would prevent institutions of higher education and other post-secondary educational institutions from using federal educational assistance funding for marketing or recruitment purposes.
  • H.R. 7307, Ronald V. Dellums Memorial Fellowship for Women of Color in STEAM and National Security Act: This bill was introduced by Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA), a member of the House subcommittee that determines annual funding for the Department of Education. The bill would direct the Secretary of Defense to establish a fellowship to provide up to 30 scholarships of up to $50,000 per year, internships, and mentorship to students with high potential in science, technology, engineering, arts, and mathematics (STEAM) fields.  The bill would require at least 50 percent of the fellowships to be awarded to students attending historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs) or other minority-serving institutions (MSIs), and to provide additional consideration of the lack of women and minority students in STEAM fields when awarding scholarships.  The bill was cosponsored by Rep. Raúl Grijalva (D-AZ), a member of the House Education and Labor Committee.
China Continues to Concern Congress
Congress continued to probe the issue of undue influence and exploitation by China and its impacts on U.S. academic research during a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on December 12. The hearing, titled “China’s Non-Traditional Espionage Against the United States: The Threat and Potential Policy Responses,” focused on China’s economic espionage efforts through various channels including academia, cyber, purchasing start-up companies, telecommunications, and other intrusive actions. Several senators expressed concern around the exploitation of government funded research, foreign talent recruitment programs, evasion of export control regulations, Confucius Institutes, international students, and cybersecurity.

Several senators mentioned and requested policy ideas for future legislation. The exploitation of research and IP will continue to be of concern in the 116th Congress. This is likely to translate into additional restrictions on research, increased export control regulations, and potentially fewer international students.

Sources and Additional Information:
ADMINISTRATION AND AGENCY UPDATES AND NEWS
 
Secretary DeVos Meets with Higher Ed Community
On December 19, U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos and Principal Deputy Under Secretary Diane Auer Jones met with the higher education community at the offices of the American Council on Education (ACE) in Washington, D.C.  Secretary DeVos opened with remarks on how there needs to be a complete “rethink of higher education,” citing the disconnect between millions of unfilled jobs and the lack of qualified employees, increased prices, and student loan debt.  She stated, “We must expand our thinking about what education actually is, as well as resist the urge to expect all students to follow the same track.”  Secretary DeVos also announced two white papers, which seek to encourage innovation in higher education and reform accreditation, among other issues.  Additionally, the Department of Education released proposed regulations in preparation for next week's rulemaking committee that will consider regulations on accreditation, TEACH grants, distance education, among other topics.

Sources and Additional Information: ED Cancels Student Loan Debt, Restarts Overhaul of Student Loan System
On December 13, the U.S. Department of Education (ED) automatically cancelled $150 million in student loan debt for 15,000 borrowers whose colleges closed between November 2013 and December 2018, carrying out part of the Obama Administration’s 2016 borrower-defense rule.  Secretary DeVos challenged this rule in court, citing that the program puts “taxpayers on the hook for significant costs.”  In October 2018, a federal judge ruled in favor of the regulation to provide loan forgiveness for defrauded borrowers.  There is currently a backlog of 139,000 unresolved student fraud claims.
 
ED is also starting over on major portions of government contracts for loan servicing in its effort to overhaul the federal student loan system, effectively cancelling second round interviews for proposal finalists that were selected in September 2018.  The government plans to release a revised solicitation by January 15, 2019 for new proposals from federal loan servicers.  Secretary DeVos claims that the overhaul will “modernize” the federal aid student system.  Senate Democrats have urged Secretary DeVos to create higher performance standards under the new contracts and to allow independent regulators to oversee selected servicer companies. 

Coming Soon: FY 2019 IFLE Program Competitions/MSI Designation
The U.S. Department of Education announced that it will hold competitions for new International and Foreign Language Education (IFLE) awards in fiscal year (FY) 2019.  Upcoming program competitions are as follows:
  • Fulbright-Hays Seminars Abroad (January or February 2019): The Fulbright-Hays Seminars Abroad provides short-term seminars around the world for U.S. educators in social sciences and humanities.  Programs are meant to improve the understanding of other countries’ peoples and cultures.  FY 2019 programs will be held in the Czech Republic/Slovakia, Taiwan, and Uruguay.
  • Title VI Undergraduate International Studies and Foreign Language (UISFL) Program (February or March 2019): The UISFL program provides grants to strengthen undergraduate instruction in international studies and foreign languages at institutions of higher education (IHEs), partnerships between non-profit education organizations and IHEs, and public and private non-profit agencies, among other types of institutions.
  • Fulbright-Hays Doctoral Dissertation Research Abroad (DDRA) Fellowship Program (March or April 2019): The DDRA program allows doctoral candidates to conduct dissertation research abroad in modern foreign languages and area studies.
  • Fulbright-Hays Group Projects Abroad (GPA) Program (March or April 2019): The GPA program provides grants for students, teachers, and faculty to research, train, and develop curriculum in international studies and culture.
Institutions interested in Title III and V minority-serving institution (MSI) funding must apply for annual designation as an eligible institution.  The application for designation is expected to be released shortly.

Administration Releases Update to STEM Strategic Plan
The National Science and Technology Council (NSTC) recently released Charting A Course For Success: America’s Strategy For STEM Education, the federal government’s five-year strategic plan for STEM education. The report represents a plan for science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) education programs, investments, and activities that are implemented by federal agencies.  The 2018 plan is a five-year update of the initial 2013 plan released under the Obama Administration. In addition to guiding federal activities and investments, the strategic plan notes its intention to serve as a ‘North Star” for the broader STEM community.

The strategic plan states the key role the federal government has in working with stakeholders to further STEM education. The plan supports three overarching goals:
  • “Build Strong Foundations for STEM Literacy;
  • Increase Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion in STEM; and
  • Prepare the STEM Workforce for the Future.”
Federal agencies engaged in STEM education will collaborate to develop a consolidated implementation plan that will include additional actions needed to meet the goals and objectives identified in the strategic plan.  Efforts around rural communities, extension projects, increasing participation by women and underrepresented minorities, digital platforms, and work-based learning will continue to be priorities for agencies engaged in STEM education.  Relatedly, the National Academies Of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine recently released a report on the STEM workforce and Minority-Serving Institutions (MSIs).  The report, Minority Serving Institutions: America’s Underutilized Resource for Strengthening the STEM Workforce, makes several recommendations, including encouraging Congress to use an Higher Education Act reauthorization to make greater investments in MSIs.  STEM issues are likely to be an issue for the new 116th Congress, especially around workforce development.

Sources and Additional Information: Insights into ED’s Inspector General Plan
The U.S. Department of Education (ED) Office of Inspector General (OIG) released its annual plan for fiscal year (FY) 2019.  The OIG is an independent entity within ED, and its annual plan overviews areas where it intends to focus its audits, reviews, and investigations.  The FY 2019 plan notes, “the focus of new work within the FY 2019 Annual Plan includes projects to assess high-priority areas such as oversight and monitoring of participants in the Federal student financial assistance programs and grant programs, information technology security, data quality and reporting, the effectiveness of Department’s internal operations, and emerging areas among the Department’s programs.”  The OIG intends to examine the federal student financial aid programs, oversight of ED’s K-12 Student Support and Academic Enrichment Program grants program, the security of ED’s information technology systems, a review of the Office for Civil Rights’ complaint dismissal process, among other oversight activities.

Sources and Additional Information:

FACTS AND FIGURES

Business Roundtable Report on Economic Impact of OPT Program
Issuance of F-1 student visas has declined by nearly 40 percent over the last two years.  A recent report from the Business Roundtable found that if the current trend continues, participation in the Optional Practical Training (OPT) program could decline by as much as 60 percent by 2020, which would have severe impacts on the U.S. economy, including a loss of 443,000 estimated jobs. 



Source: Business Roundtable, The Economic Impact of Curbing the Optional Practical Training Program
WHAT WE'RE READING

IES Planning New Support of Broad Replication Studies
A mid-December message from Institute of Education Sciences (IES) Director Mark Schneider announced the Institute’s interest in funding grants to systematically replicate intervention studies in order to garner a better understanding of the conditions under which certain interventions can be successful.  IES is “considering a grants competition that will support a maximum of five replication studies per intervention, in which the recipients of these grants will carry out one or more replications. Each replication would be fully powered and systematically vary at least one aspect of the prior efficacy study’s research methods or procedures.”  Further details can be read at  https://ies.ed.gov/director/remarks/12-17-2018.asp.
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