DC Digest - January 29, 2010
In Today's Issue:
- Head of Defense Threat Reduction Agency Visits Duke
- Senator Grassley Comments on College Endowment Survey, Raises Pay-Out Requirements Issue
- Duke Researcher to Testify for House Committee on Science and Technology
- Senate Rejects Coburn Proposal to Cut $120 Billion in Spending
- President Obama Calls for Loan Forgiveness and Loan Restructuring in First State of the Union
HEAD OF DEFENSE THREAT REDUCTION AGENCY VISITS DUKE
Kenneth Myers, director of the Defense Threat Reduction Agency, visited campus on Tuesday to meet with students, faculty and administrators. During his visit, Myers spoke with students about careers in public service and guest lectured to a public policy course on politics and the media. Myers also met with faculty from the Sanford School, Political Science Department, Duke Medicine, and Engineering to discuss Duke research and public policy issues.
The Defense Threat Reduction Agency safeguards America and its allies from weapons of mass destruction (chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear and high yield explosives) by providing capabilities to reduce, eliminate, and counter the threat and mitigate its effects. Myers also serves as director of the U.S. Strategic Command Center for Combating Weapons of Mass Destruction (SCC-WMD). The Center integrates and synchronizes Department of Defense-wide efforts in support of the combating WMD mission.
Biography of Ken Myers
SENATOR GRASSLEY COMMENTS ON COLLEGE ENDOWMENT SURVEY RESULTS, RAISES PAY-OUT REQUIREMENT ISSUE
According to a survey released on Thursday by the National Association of College and University Business Officers (NACUBO), the value of college endowments declined by an average of 23 percent from 2008 to 2009, socked by the one-two punch of record investment losses and a precipitous drop in giving. The average investment return for the 2009 fiscal year was minus-18.7 percent, the worst result in the history of the endowment study, which the National Association of College and University Business Officers has sponsored since 1971.
Sen. Chuck Grassley, ranking member of the Committee on Finance, with jurisdiction over tax policy, is interested in whether universities maximize their tax-exempt status to help students, in keeping with their charitable mission. The senator made the following comment on the annual survey on college endowments:
“I hope colleges won’t rely on double-digit losses as a reason to raise tuition or freeze student aid. Many of them relied on some risky investments, like hedge funds, to get big gains in recent years, and now those strategies are causing losses. Students shouldn’t bear the brunt of colleges’ easy-come, easy-go investment strategy. A lot of colleges still have plenty of money in the bank. Pay-out rates over the last decade rarely topped 5 percent, even when investment returns were in double digits."
“There’s inconsistency in pay-out requirements for tax-exempt organizations. Private foundations generally have to pay out 5 percent of their assets a year to other charities. Other types of asset-accumulating charities – such as endowments, donor-advised funds, and certain supporting organizations – don’t face any pay-out requirement. One idea is to make the pay-out requirements consistent. The thinking is that since these organizations are allowed to accumulate money tax-free for their charitable purpose, they should have to spend at least a small amount fulfilling that purpose. That makes sense as a point of accountability. Tax-exempt entities are given special status in exchange for performing good works. A minimum pay-out requirement would help them keep their end of the bargain. It’s important to get the formula right to accommodate market and asset accumulations from year to year. The right formula would work with economic fluctuations.”
Average Return on Endowment Investments is Worst in Almost 40 Years (Chronicle of Higher Ed)
DUKE RESEARCHER TO TESTIFY FOR HOUSE COMMITTEE ON SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY
Dr. Robert B. Jackson, Nicholas Chair of Global Environmental Change and professor of biology, will testify before the House Committee on Science and Technology on Thursday of next week (Feb. 4th). Rep. Brian Baird (D-WA), chair of the Energy and Environment Subcommittee, will lead the hearing, which will explore the scientific and engineering background of geoengineering strategies. Thursday's hearing, "Geoengineering II: The Scientific Basis and Engineering Challenges," will be the second in a series of three intended to explore geoengineering as a potential method of counteracting climate change.
Dr. Jackson's research focuses on ecology and biochemistry, global change, energy and environment, and water resources.
Dr. Jackson's Webpage
House Committee on Science and Technology
SENATE REJECTS COBURN PROPOSAL TO CUT $120 BILLION IN SPENDING
During ths week's consideration of legislation to raise the statutory debt limit (H.J. Res 45), the Senate rejected a proposal by Senator Tom Coburn (R-OK) to rescind $120 billion in federal spending. Senator Coburn was allowed to divide his amendment into four amendments, three of which the Senate rejected. (All four amendments required 60 votes for passage.) The single Coburn amendment adopted requires the Government Accountability Office to identify “duplicative government programs” and provide Congress an annual report on the findings.
One Coburn amendment would have rescinded funding for a variety of federal programs deemed wasteful or duplicative, including certain education programs. Among the higher education programs singled out by Senator Coburn were college work-study, Javits graduate fellowships, and international education programs at the Departments of State, Education, and Defense, and the National Science Foundation. It failed by a vote of 33 yes, 61 no.
A third amendment, to reduce office budgets for Members of Congress, failed by a vote of 46 to 48, while a fourth, to rescind certain unspent and uncommitted federal funds, failed by a vote of 37 to 57.
Coburn's Proposal (Coburn.senate.gov)
PRESIDENT OBAMA CALLS FOR LOAN FORGIVENESS AND LOAN RESTRUCTURING IN FIRST STATE OF THE UNION
President Obama on Wednesday proposed a cap on student loan repayments and an expansion of loan forgiveness programs, while urging the Senate to pass the Student Aid and Fiscal Responsibility Act (H.R. 3221) and asking colleges and universities to rein in costs.
The loan repayment cap, which had been previewed by the president earlier in the week, would modify the existing program under which eligible borrowers' payments total no more than 15 percent of discretionary income and loan balances are forgiven after 25 years of repayment. The president’s proposal would lower the maximum payment to 10 percent of discretionary income and reduce the time frame for loan forgiveness to 20 years.
ACE President Molly Corbett Broad, in a statement issued the night of the address, thanked President Obama for his continuing focus on higher education and said, “His proposal to cap student loan payments by income is especially welcome in light of current economic conditions, which have made repaying loans particularly challenging for some recent graduates. Additionally, the president’s focus on easing the burden for those pursuing public service careers will ensure that recent graduates who want to serve their communities or their country will not be prohibited from doing so because of student loan obligations.”
Obama Seeks to Expand Student Loan Program (Washington Post)
Obama Pushes College Tax Credit and Debt Forgiveness (Bloomberg.com)