DC Digest - November 4, 2011
In Today's Issue:
- Senate Approves First FY12 "Minibus" and Preps for Second
- Student Aid Emerges as Hot Political Topic
- AAU, APLU Send Letter to Conferees on FY12 NSF, NASA Funding
- Petition to "Save Student Aid" Garners 47,000+ Signatures
- Higher Ed Organizations Urge Deficit Committee to Support Research Investments
- Yes, There Will be a Student Loan Bailout
- AEI Report: Failure to Disclose
- New GI Bill Threat: A Limit on Tuition Increases
SENATE APPROVES FIRST FY12 "MINIBUS" AND PREPS FOR SECOND
On November 1, the Senate approved an FY12 appropriations “minibus,” which includes three of the 12 FY12 appropriations bills: Agriculture, Transportation-Housing, and Commerce-Justice-Science. The latter bill includes funding for the National Science Foundation and NASA.
Senate leaders are readying a second minibus for consideration next week, which will combine the FY12 Energy-Water (H.R. 2354), Financial Services (S. 1573), and State-Foreign Operations (S. 1601) appropriations bills.
The House-Senate conference on the first minibus began on November 3, which CQ.com says is “the first conference committee on a spending measure in two years.” House Appropriations Committee Chair Harold Rogers (R-KY) hopes to have a completed conference report by the week of November 14, when the House returns to session.
Conferees on the minibus also likely will add a new continuing resolution (CR) to the package to keep the government funded through mid-December, beyond the November 18 expiration of the current CR.
Helping move the conference forward, reports Politico, is the fact that House Republicans have indicated that they will support the funding levels agreed to last August in the Budget Control Act, which provided $24 billion more in FY12 spending than the House approved earlier in the year (though $7 billion below FY11 levels).
--Senate-Passed Bill Contains Committee-Approved Funding for NSF, NASA
In the process of approving several amendments to the FY12 appropriations minibus, the Senate made no changes to funding levels approved by the Appropriations Committee for the National Science Foundation (NSF) or NASA. The Commerce-Justice-Science bill (S. 1572), approved by the Committee on September 15, would cut the NSF budget by $162 million, or 2.4 percent, and the NASA budget by $509 million, or 2.8 percent. (See DC Digest from September 16 for more details)
STUDENT AID EMERGES AS HOT POLITICAL TOPIC
College access is likely to be a flashpoint in debate over the fiscal year 2012 spending bills. The House and Senate Appropriations Committees took very different approaches on financing Pell Grants. The program is "a victim of its own success" said Stephanie Giesecke, the director of budget and appropriations for the National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities, a higher education association in Washington. "It's doing exactly what it's designed to do." But Ms. Giesecke said that the House "went further than it needed to go" in making changes to the program's structure to ensure its fiscal solvency.
Student Aid Emerges as Hot Political Topic (Education Week)
AAU, APLU SEND LETTER TO CONFEREES ON FY12 NSF, NASA FUNDING
AAU, of which Duke is a member, and the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities (APLU) sent a letter to House and Senate appropriators on November 2 urging them to sustain support for the four research agencies funded through the FY12 Commerce-Justice-Science appropriations bill included in the Senate-passed “minibus.” The four agencies are NSF, NASA, the National Institute of Standards and Technology, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
For NSF, the letter asks conferees to fund NSF at its FY11 level of $6.86 billion, which is the same as the House FY12 level and $162 million more than the Senate-approved level. For NASA, the two associations request $5.1 billion for the space agency’s Science Mission Directorate, $637 million for Space Technology, and $570 million for Aeronautics.
Regarding the James Webb Space Telescope, the letter expresses “confidence you and your staff will work through differences to appropriate a level of funding allowing for the completion and launch of the telescope,” but asks that an appropriations firewall be placed between FY12 funding for the telescope and the Science Mission Directorate.
AAU, APLU Letter to Conferees on FY12 NSF, NASA Funding (pdf)
PETITION TO "SAVE STUDENT AID" GARNERS 47,000+ SIGNATURES
An online petition developed by the Student Aid Alliance to urge sustained federal funding for student aid has received over 47,000 signatures so far, and the list is growing. The petition, which will be sent soon to the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction, notes that recent budget deals have already cut $30 billion from federal student aid programs, even as many states are cutting higher education programs in their own budgets.
The petition adds:
“That’s why it’s more important than ever to preserve, protect and provide adequate funding for the core federal student aid programs—such as Pell Grants and student loan benefits. Together, these programs offer students an opportunity to acquire the knowledge and skills our nation demands for a strong recovery. Tough budget decisions in DC have put pressure on all federal spending, but cutting student aid, a long-term investment in our nation’s future, doesn’t make sense.”
Save Student Aid Petition (Student Aid Alliance)
HIGHER ED ORGANIZATIONS URGE DEFICIT COMMITTEE TO SUPPORT RESEARCH INVESTMENTS
A group of 70 higher education associations, universities, and scientific groups wrote to the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction on October 28 asking the panel to identify federal research and development as an area of U.S. investment “too critical to be cut.”
The letter, led by the American Association for the Advancement of Science, said:
“Science and discovery are important aspects of the American national character. American ingenuity is still the best reason for long-term optimism about the U.S. economy and the well-being of its people. An effective path out of the current difficulties should include investments in R&D. They can fuel our future growth and prosperity.”
Organizations Urge Deficit Committee to Support Research Investments (pdf)
YES, THERE WILL BE A STUDENT LOAN BAILOUT
When will the student loan bailout happen? And more important, will it be students who get bailed out, lenders or both?
If you think it’s too early to be asking this, you haven’t been looking at the numbers coming out about student loans. On the We Are The 99% photoblog, where protesters hold up signs explaining their grievances, just about every third sign cites crushing student debt load.
Yes, There Will be a Student Loan Bailout (Bloomberg Businessweek)
AEI REPORT: FAILURE TO DISCLOSE
Three years after the reauthorization of the Higher Education Act, which included new disclosure requirements for institutions, the majority of colleges are failing to provide public information on graduation rates for low-income students, and many do not adequately disclose other required information, according to a study published on Thursday by Education Sector and the American Enterprise Institute.
Failure to Disclose (InsideHigherEd)
The Truth Behind Higher Education Disclosure Laws (AEI.org)
NEW GI BILL THREAT: A LIMIT ON TUITION INCREASES
The promise of a GI Bill that fully pays for a four-year college education could be eroding. The Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction, the 12-member bipartisan panel empowered to come up with $1.2 trillion in cuts in federal spending, has before it a plan to cut $7 billion from veterans education benefits over 10 years by capping the annual increase in tuition rates at 3 percent.
New Threat to GI Bill: A Limit on Tuition Increases (Air Force Times)