DC Digest - April 20, 2012
In Today's Issue:
- Senator Bayh: Keep Innovation in the Hands of Universities
- Senate Budget Committee Holds Meeting But No Markup
- House and Senate Appropriations Committees Begin FY13 Markups (NSF, NASA)
- Higher Education Groups Request Clarification on Self-Funded Student Health Insurance Plans and ACA Rules
- Student Loan Interest Rates Loom as Political Issue
- ACE Publishes Background Material on College Costs
- Senator Hagan Introduces Bill to Halt Federal Dollars Used for For-Profit College Recruitment
- White House Continues Drumbeat on 21st Century Grand Challenges
- DATA Act Expected on House Floor Soon
- Press Conference on April 25 Will Preview New "Golden Goose" Research Award
- Young Scientists Encouraged to Apply for ASPIRE Prize
- Legislation Would Attempt to Protect Students from Unnecessary Debt
SENATOR BAYH: KEEP INNOVATION IN THE HANDS OF UNIVERSITIES
The Atlantic has published an op-ed by former Senator Birch Bayh and Joseph Allen on the importance of retaining technology transfer management in universities rather than giving that role to individual inventors, as recommended by the Kauffman Foundation in its so-called “free agency” proposal.
The op-ed, “School Power: The Case for Keeping Innovation in the Hands of Universities,” notes that by empowering universities to own and manage their inventions, the Bayh-Dole Act created a system of technology transfer that “is by far the most effective in the world,” and one that several nations, such as Japan, China, and India, are now imitating in an effort to better compete with us. “Bayh-Dole makes the university a steward of the public interest,” they write.
The authors raise several practical concerns about the Kauffmann proposal. These include how individual inventors would cover the upfront costs of licensing, and what would happen to breakthroughs like biotechnology “where decades are needed for commercial products to appear.” If inventors are placed in charge of licensing their inventions, say the two authors, broader public interests “could be lost to the temptation to maximize immediate profits.”
School Power:The Case for Keeping Innovation in the Hands of Universities (The Atlantic)
Kauffman Free Agency Proposal (Kauffman.org)
SENATE BUDGET COMMITTEE HOLDS MEETING BUT NO MARKUP
Senate Budget Committee Chairman Kent Conrad (D-ND) convened the committee on April 18 to discuss his long-term budget plan, but he did not take votes or allow amendments, reports CQ.com. Rather, the Senator used the session to present the plan, which is based largely on the framework developed by the presidential Bowles-Simpson commission, and to say he hoped it would be part of the spending and tax negotiations expected after the November elections.
Although Senator Conrad had said last week that he would hold a committee markup this week, he apparently backed off at the request of Senate Democratic leaders. Those leaders have insisted there is no need to mark up an FY13 budget resolution because last year’s Budget Control Act (BCA) has already set the FY13 level for discretionary spending. (The budget resolution is a congressional document that is not signed into law by the President, but is used to set congressional spending and revenue priorities. One of its most important features is the limit it sets on discretionary spending in a given fiscal year.)
HOUSE AND SENATE APPROPRIATIONS COMMITTEES BEGIN FY13 MARKUPS
The House and Senate Appropriations Committees have begun the challenging task of marking up their FY13 funding bills, using discretionary spending totals that are not only below the FY12 levels but also $19 billion apart. As discussed above, the Senate is using the discretionary spending total for FY13 that was approved last August as part of the BCA, which is $4 billion below the FY12 level. The House is working with $19 billion less than the Senate, but because its plan would raise defense spending by $8 billion, its measure actually would fund non-defense programs at $27 billion below the Senate level.
The White House weighed in on the issue this week. Acting Office of Management and Budget (OMB) Director Jeffrey Zients sent House Appropriations Committee Chairman Harold Rogers (R-KY) a letter saying that until the House agrees to abide by last summer’s BCA agreement on discretionary spending, the President will be unable to sign any appropriations bills.
NSF and NASA.
Senate: The FY13 funding bill approved on April 18 by the full Senate Appropriations Committee would provide $7.3 billion for NSF, which the committee press release indicates is a $240 million increase over FY12.
For NASA, the Senate bill would provide $19.4 billion, an increase of $1.6 billion over the FY12 level. However, the increase results from moving the acquisition of weather satellites from the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration to NASA, so funding for current NASA programs would actually be cut by $41.5 million from the FY12 level. The bill includes $5 billion for Science programs, which is $69 million below the FY12 level. The measure restores $100 million of the Administration’s proposed $307 million cut to planetary science programs.
House: In the House, the FY13 funding bill marked up in subcommittee on April 19 includes $7.3 billion for NSF, which the committee statement says is $299 million above the FY12 level and $41 million below the President’s request. The statement adds that the increase is “provided to core research and education activities…including funding for an advanced manufacturing science initiative and for research in cyber-security and cyber-infrastructure.”
The House bill would fund NASA at $17.6 billion, which is $226 million below the FY12 level and $138 million below the President’s FY13 request. NASA Science programs would receive $5.1 billion, which the statement says is $5 million above the FY12 level.
The House subcommittee mark also includes $628 million for the James Webb Telescope, $570 million for Aeronautics, $632 million for Space Technology, and $24 million for the National Space Grant College Program.
DOE Office of Science. The bill approved on April 18 by the House Energy and Water Appropriations Subcommittee would fund the DOE Office of Science at $4.824 billion, which is $64 million below the final enacted FY12 level and $168 million below the President’s FY13 request. The Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E) would receive $200 million in the House bill, which is $75 million below FY12 and $150 below the President’s FY13 request.
Summary: FY13 Commerce, Justice, Science Appropriations Bill (Appropriations.senate.gov)
HIGHER EDUCATION GROUPS REQUEST CLARIFICATION ON SELF-FUNDED STUDENT HEALTH INSURANCE PLANS AND ACA RULES
The American Council on Education (ACE) has asked the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to clarify how self-funded student health insurance may be recognized as providing “minimal essential coverage” under the Affordable Care Act (ACA), the health care reform bill signed into law in 2010.
The individual mandate takes effect in 2014, but the letter urges HHS to issue guidance by fall 2012 so that institutions will have time to implement any changes for these plans before the 2013-14 school year begins in August 2013.
Letter on Self-Funded Student Health Benefit Plans (acenet.edu)
STUDENT LOAN INTEREST RATES LOOM AS POLITICAL ISSUE
President Obama begins an all-out push on Friday to get Congress to extend the low interest rate on federal student loans, White House officials said. Part of the White House effort will include a speech and visit to the University of North Carolina next Tuesday.
If Congress fails to act, the interest rate on the federal student loans, will double on July 1, to 6.8 percent.
In letters sent to Senators Richard Burr and Kay Hagan and Representative David Price in March, President Brodhead pointed out that maintaining the current 3.4% interest rate is an extremely important policy priority for Duke and urged their support.
Student Loan Interest Rates Loom as Political Battle (NYTimes)
President Obama to Travel to North Carolina, Colorado, and Iowa, Calling on Congress to Prevent Student Loan Interest Rates from Doubling (Whitehouse.gov)
ACE PUBLISHES BACKGROUND MATERIAL ON COLLEGE COSTS
The American Council on Education (ACE) has published two short reports that provide background information and data about college costs. The two documents discuss trends in costs, how college pricing works, and the broader economic, policy, and technological trends that have affected higher education finances.
“Putting College Costs Into Context” describes college costs trends, key terms, the factors that contribute to the increasing cost of a college education, and steps colleges and universities are taking to alleviate costs. The companion report, “The Anatomy of College Tuition,” places higher education in the context of the nation’s industrial structure and economic history, providing “context that is often missing from contemporary discussions about higher education.”
The report was written by Robert B. Archibald and David H. Feldman, based on their book, Why Does College Cost So Much? The introduction adds:
“Crafting a constructive public policy toward a complex sector like higher education requires a clear understanding of the basic forces tugging on the industry…Overheated
rhetoric about the supposed ills and inefficiency of higher education often leads to counterproductive policy ideas that confuse symptoms with causes and that overestimate what government can do.”
Putting College Costs Into Context (Acenet.edu)
The Anatomy of College Tuition (Acenet.edu)
SENATOR HAGAN INTRODUCES BILL TO HALT FEDERAL DOLLARS USED FOR FOR-PROFIT COLLEGE RECRUITMENT
Sens. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, and Kay Hagan, D-N.C., introduced a bill Wednesday to prohibit colleges of all kinds from using dollars from federal student assistance programs to pay for advertising. The rule would apply to all institution types but would mostly affect for-profits.
The proposal faces long odds in Congress and opposition from the higher education community, but the approach is novel and could be part of the longer-term debate on Capitol Hill about the regulation of for-profit institutions.
In her remarks to announce the legislation, Senator Hagan explained that the legislation is intended to prevent taxpayers from "picking up the tab for colleges with dismal graduation rates that spend up to 30 percent of their revenue on marketing machines."
New Front in For-Profit Battle? (Inside Higher Ed)
Democratic Senators Seek to Halt Federal Dollars Used for For-Profit College Recruitment Ads (Washington Post)
Hagan, Harkin Work to Protect Taxpayer Investment in Students (Hagan.Senate.gov)
WHITE HOUSE CONTINUES DRUMBEAT ON 21ST CENTURY GRAND CHALLENGES
The White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) has announced that it will convene a conference sometime in July to review progress on the Administration’s Grand Challenges initiative and to highlight opportunities for expanded participation by universities, businesses, and philanthropists. The initiative was launched in September 2009 to harness science and technology to address grand challenges of the 21st century in such areas as health, clean energy, national security, and education and life-long learning. As a part of this effort, OSTP is challenging businesses, universities, foundations, and other organizations to find innovative ways to tackle these grand challenges.
21st Century Grand Challenges (whitehouse.gov)
DATA ACT EXPECTED ON HOUSE FLOOR SOON
The DATA Act (H.R. 2146) establishes a federal accountability and spending transparency board that would collect and review financial reports from entities that receive federally appropriated funds, either directly or through a sub-grant or sub-contract. The bill also requires the creation of a new federal accountability website. The bill, which was introduced by House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Darrell Issa (R-CA), was approved by that panel last June.
The House appears poised to consider the DATA Act before the end of the month. It remains unclear how sponsors will propose to offset its costs, which have been scored by the Congressional Budget Office at $575 million over four years.
The higher ed community opposes the legislation in its current form and urges that the bill be amended to replace, not duplicate, existing reporting requirements. AAU, the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities, and the Council on Governmental Relations are preparing a letter to the full House expressing their joint concerns.
PRESS CONFERENCE ON APRIL 25 WILL PREVIEW NEW “GOLDEN GOOSE” RESEARCH AWARD
Three Members of Congress will join a group of organizations, including AAU, at a Capitol Hill press conference on April 25 to announce creation of the “Golden Goose” award, which will honor the often unexpected and transformative outcomes of basic scientific research. The Members speaking at the press conference will include Jim Cooper (D-TN), whose idea it was to create the Golden Goose award, as well as Brian Bilbray (R-CA) and Charlie Dent (R-PA).
The “Golden Goose” award will highlight the unpredictable nature of basic scientific research and the fact that some of the most important scientific discoveries come from federally funded research that may once have been viewed as unusual, odd, or obscure.
The award is being launched by a coalition of seven organizations: AAU, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities, the Breakthrough Policy Institute, the Progressive Policy Institute, The Science Coalition, and the Task Force on American Innovation.
YOUNG SCIENTISTS ENCOURAGED TO APPLY FOR ASPIRE PRIZE
The Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum (APEC), an organization of 21 Pacific-Rim countries, including the United States, has announced the 2012 competition for its ASPIRE Prize. The prize is awarded to a young scientist in an APEC-member country who has demonstrated research excellence.
This year’s competition for the ASPIRE Prize—which is short for “APEC Science Prize for Innovation, Research and Education”—will honor a young scientist who has demonstrated a commitment to excellence in scientific research, has cooperated with scientists from other APEC-member economies, and has contributed to this year’s theme of health innovation.
The deadline for submitting nominations is Wednesday, May 2.
ASPIRE Info and Nomination Process (pdf)
LEGISLATION WOULD ATTEMPT TO PROTECT STUDENTS FROM UNNECESSARY DEBT
The writers at Higher Ed Watch have written plenty about federal student loan programs. But increasingly, students are borrowing from private lenders to fund their educations, often at less-favorable terms than those for which they might otherwise be eligible. A new piece of legislation introduced in the Senate, the Know Before You Owe Private Student Loan Act (S. 2280), would help students avoid unnecessary or costly private borrowing.
New Legislation Would Attempt to Protect Students From Unnecessary Debt (higheredwatch.newamerica.net)