DC Digest - February 24, 2012
In Today's Issue:
- U.S. Ambassador to China Announces Interview Waiver Pilot Program
- House to Consider Bill to Repeal Credit Hour and State Authorization Regulations
- AAAS to Release "Smart Grid" Tool for Expanding Access and Diversity in STEM Fields
- Price Controls: Obama's Higher Education Agenda, Part 2 of 8
- USAID Taps Into New Trends on Campus
U.S. AMBASSADOR TO CHINA ANNOUNCES INTERVIEW WAIVER PILOT PROGRAM
As a follow-up to President Obama's January 19th Executive Order, "Establishing Visa and Foreign Visitor Processing Goals and the Task Force on Travel and Competitiveness," U.S. Ambassador to the People's Republic of China, Gary Locke recently announced a new Interview Waiver Pilot program.
This pilot program is meant to address visa processing issues for Chinese visitors who frequently travel to the United States.
Below are key points pulled from Ambassador Locke's statement:
- On February 13, Mission China launched a pilot program to streamline visa processing by permitting consular officers to waive interviews for some qualified nonimmigrant applicants worldwide who are renewing their visa within 48 months (four years) of the expiration of their previously held visa, and within the same classification as the previous visa. In China, previous holders of B (temporary visitors for business/pleasure), C1 (transit), D (crewmembers), F (students), J (exchange visitors), M (nonacademic students), and O (visitors with extraordinary ability) visas can renew their visas if they have been expired less than 48 months (four years).
- Over the course of the year, this policy could open as many as 100,000 interview appointments for Chinese travelers applying for visas for the first time.
- Applicants who qualify for interview waiver under the new guidelines can follow existing procedures to renew their visas.
- Protection of our borders and national security remains the U.S. government's highest priority. As always, with this renewal program, some applicants who apply to renew their visa without an interview will be called in for an interview for both security and quality control reasons.
Ambassador Locke's Remarks Announcing New Interview Waiver Pilot Program (usembassy-china.org)
January 19th Executive Order- Establishing Visa and Foreign Visitor Processing Goals and the Task Force on Travel and Competitiveness (whitehouse.gov)
HOUSE TO CONSIDER BILL TO REPEAL CREDIT HOUR AND STATE AUTHORIZATION REGULATIONS
The House of Representatives is expected to consider legislation next week that would repeal Department of Education regulations on state authorization and credit hour.
The Protecting Academic Freedom in Higher Education Act (H.R. 2117), introduced by Rep. Virginia Foxx (R-VA), would repeal the state authorization regulation that significantly expands federal requirements for an institution to legally operate within a state. The rule, for example, forces institutions that offer distance education programs to meet state requirements in every state in which they have a distance education student. In response to concerns raised by the higher education community, the Department of Education announced in April 2011 that it would take a "limited enforcement approach" over the ne xt three years on the distance learning portion of the rule.
H.R. 2117 also would repeal the new federal definition of credit hour-which institutions are concerned could open the door to federal interference in core academic decisions related to curriculum-and would prohibit the Secretary of Education from establishing a regulation about credit hour in the future.
A group of more than 70 higher education associations and accreditors sent a letter to Rep. Foxx last June thanking her for introducing the bill. The measure was approved by the full House Committee on Education and the Workforce on June 15, 2011.
AAAS TO RELEASE "SMART GRID" TOOL FOR EXPANDING ACCESS AND DIVERSITY IN STEM FIELDS
The American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) and the organiza tion, Education Counsel, will hold a briefing on February 27 to release a new publication aimed at expanding the means for colleges and universities to attract more diverse students into science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields.
The publication, "The Smart Grid for Institutions of Higher Education and the Students They Serve: Developing and Using Collaborative Agreements to Bring More Students into STEM," provides guidance and tools for developing voluntary, institution-based collaborative agreements for widening student participation in STEM fields. Ar eas of focus include models between two-and four-year institutions; between multiple four-year institutions (with a focus on minority-serving institutions); and between graduate and undergraduate programs.
The Smart Grid is part of Phase 2 of a multi‐year, NSF‐funded AAAS project on access and diversity in STEM fields.
Briefing Flyer (educationcounsel.com)
PRICE CONTROLS: OBAMA'S HIGHER EDUCATION AGENDA, PART 2 of 8
The newest part of President Obama's agenda for higher education is his plan to limit tuition increases by punishing those that increase their prices too quickly. Obama's proposal to impose a kind of price control on higher education comes as an emergency response to a situation he seems not to have anticipated. Until his State of the Union speech and University of Michigan follow-up, he had never made a public statement suggesting that he favored limiting the tuitions that colleges and universities charge. The emergency is, of course, political.
Price Controls: Obama's Higher Education Agenda, Part 2 of 8 (Chronicle of Higher Ed)
USAID TAPS INTO NEW TRENDS ON CAMPUS
The United States Agency for International Development's recently launched Higher Education Solutions Network is looking for new types of relationships with universities and research institutes, as it seeks to "create and leverage a virtual network of experts who are focused on solving distinct global development challenges", according to the programme documentation. The agency will fund multiple multi-million-dollar programmes to be allocated over a five-year period for building the new relationships.
USAID Taps Into New Trends on Campus (universityworldnews.com)
OMB TO SOLICIT VIEWS ON A-21 REFORM AND CRAFTING N EW FEDERAL GRANTS "SUPERCIRCULAR"
As part of the Administration's ongoing effort to streamline regulations and improve oversight of federal programs, the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) is taking the next steps toward reforming cost principles and administrative requirements related to federal grants and cooperative agreements.
This effort follows up on work conducted by the Interagency Task Force on Circular A-21-to which AAU, other higher education associations, and many universities, including Duke, provided recommendations last summer-and by review groups for other OMB circulars. The new proposal includes merging several existing federal grant circulars into one "supercircular."
The agency's Advanced Notice of Proposed Guidance (ANPG), which is already posted on the OMB website, will be published in the Federal Register on Tuesday, February 28. The goal is to solicit suggestions on ways to consolidate existing grant circulars, such as A-21 and A-87, into a single circular. Under a two-stage process, the ANPG will solicit comments on the set of ideas that OMB has assembled from the various review groups and other sources. OMB will then use those comments to develop a set of specific proposals that it will publish for additional public comment in the late spring, to be followed by final changes during the summer.
Examples of the proposed reforms OMB is considering, relevant to research universities, are: 1) a more risk-based approach to auditing, which aims to create a tiered auditing process based on the amount of federal award dollars received by an entity; 2) exploring alternatives to time and effort reporting, which would revolve around existing pilot efforts; 3) expanding the Utility Cost Adjustment for research to more institutions; and 4) charging allocable administrative support and computers as a direct cost.
The proposed OMB reforms also include the option for universities to choose a flat indirect (F&A) cost rate instead of their negotiated rate. OMB argues that this option might appeal to institutions because it would "reduce administrative burdens on recipients associated with documenting, justifying, negotiating, and maintaining support for a negotiated rate."
OFR will work with AAU, the Council on Governmental Relations, other associations, and campus representatives in developing a response to the ANPG as necessary.
Reform of Federal Policies Relating to Grants and Cooperative Agreements (whitehouse.gov)