DC Digest - July 31, 2012
In Today's Issue:
- Efforts Show the Impact of Sequestration on Nondefense Discretionary Programs
- Senate Finance Committee Reviews Higher Ed Tax Incentives
- Obama Signs New Initiative to Improve African American Educational Outcomes
- Associations Submit Brief to NLRB on NYU Grad Student Unionization Case
- Backing Off on State Authorization
- Colleges and Universities Ramping Up Programs for Military and Veteran Students
AAU REPORTS: EFFORTS SHOW THE IMPACT OF SEQUESTRATION ON NONDEFENSE DISCRETIONARY PROGRAMS
A variety of efforts are underway on Capitol Hill to demonstrate that the scheduled year-end sequester would have a devastating impact on programs funded in the nondefense discretionary (NDD) portion of the federal budget. These advocacy activities are designed to show that nondefense programs—including those in education, research, health care, labor, transportation, and foreign policy—will be harmed at least as significantly by the sequester as defense discretionary programs. The impact on defense spending and jobs has been a recent focus on Capitol Hill. The activities include the following.
--Group of 78 House Democrats Writes to Leadership on Danger of NDD Sequester Cuts
A group of 78 House Democrats, led by Reps. Rush Holt (D-NJ) and Linda Sanchez (D-CA), sent a letter to House and Senate leaders on July 20 expressing concern over “draconian cuts to important domestic programs” that would result from the scheduled across-the-board cuts under sequestration. The Members also made clear that they would not support any budget deal that sought to avoid cuts only in defense programs.
--Senator Harkin Holds Hearing, Releases Report on Effects of Sequester
Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA), chair of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor-HHS-Education, held a hearing on July 25 regarding the impact of the sequester on education programs. He also released a report detailing the impact of the sequester more broadly on programs under his panel’s jurisdiction. The report, “Under Threat: Sequestration’s Impact on Nondefense Jobs and Services,” is available here. It says that the National Institutes of Health (NIH) would be cut by $2.4 billion under sequestration, allocated across the NIH Institutes and Centers. The report notes, however, “OMB recently determined that, under the terms of the Budget Control Act, discretionary and mandatory Pell Grant funding would be exempt from sequestration.”
Hearing Info and Report.
--NDD Coalition Holds Capitol Hill Rally to Decry NDD Sequester Cuts
A coalition of groups and institutions organized to support NDD programs on July 25 staged a rally on Capitol Hill to urge Members of Congress to avoid the year-end sequester. Among its other activities, the group sent a letter to all Members of Congress on July 12—co-signed by nearly 3,000 groups, including AAU—which urged Members not to approve further cuts to the nondefense discretionary portion of the budget.
SENATE FINANCE COMMITTEE REVIEWS HIGHER ED TAX INCENTIVES
The Senate Finance Committee held a hearing on July 25 to review higher education tax incentives. The session, which was part of the Committee’s continuing series of hearings on tax reform, focused on current tax incentives and potential improvements to enhance access to higher education.
Several issues were addressed in the witness testimony and the ensuing discussion, including: increasing tuition prices; the efficiency and effectiveness of tax incentives in improving access to and completion of higher education; potential consolidation of current higher education credits and other tax provisions; and whether or not federal student aid and higher education tax incentives contribute to increasing tuition prices.
Senator Charles Grassley (R-IA) and hearing witness Lynn Munson, president and executive director of Common Core, discussed other higher education tax provisions and tax subsidies for higher education institutions and urged greater transparency for taxpayers. They specifically mentioned the tax-exempt status of traditional colleges and universities; the uses, value, and payouts of university endowments; charitable giving to universities; and tax-exempt bonds.
Hearing Info (Finance.senate.gov)
Senator Grassley's Opening Statement (Grassley.senate.gov)
PRESIDENT OBAMA SIGNS NEW INITIATIVE TO IMPROVE AFRICAN AMERICAN EDUCATIONAL OUTCOMES
President Obama signed an Executive Order last week to improve outcomes and advance educational opportunities for African Americans.
Housed in the Education Department, the initiative will work with the Executive Office of the President and cabinet agencies to identify "evidence-based practices to improve African American students’ achievement in school and college," the White House said. It will also work "to develop a national network of individuals, organizations, and communities that will share and implement these practices."
A similar program, for Hispanic students, was created in 1990 with an executive order signed by President George H.W. Bush. His three successors -- including Obama -- have signed orders to extend the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for Hispanic Americans.
President Obama Signs New Initiative to Improve Educational Outcomes for African Americans (whitehouse.gov)
ASSOCIATIONS SUBMIT BRIEF TO NLRB ON NYU GRADUATE STUDENT UNIONIZATION CASE
Under the leadership of the American Council on Education (ACE), several higher education associations filed an amicus brief on July 23 with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) regarding a case that deals with the unionization of graduate students at New York University (NYU). The ACE-led brief argues the associations’ longstanding position that graduate students at private universities are primarily students, not employees, so they should not be allowed to unionize.
Last June, the NLRB regional director in Manhattan dismissed a petition by the United Auto Workers (UAW) to unionize graduate student assistants at NYU. As expected, the regional official dismissed the petition based on the NLRB’s 2004 decision which held that graduate students at Brown University were primarily students, not employees. But the regional director also declared that teaching and research assistants at NYU might be considered the university’s employees if the Brown case were reversed. The full NLRB is now reviewing the case.
The ACE-led brief argues:
“Graduate students, admitted on the basis of their academic and scholarly potential, not on the basis of any employment-related qualifications, are expected to teach and conduct research in their quest to become independent scholars and teachers. Participation in teaching or research is one of the defining features of graduate education in the U.S. and one of the principal factors accounting for its exceptional quality.”
The supporting associations are AAU, the Association of American Medical Colleges, the College and University Professional Association for Human Resources, and the National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities.
ACE Joins NYU in Arguing Against Graduate Student Unionization (ACEnet.edu)
Students or Employees? (InsideHigherEd)
BACKING OFF ON STATE AUTHORIZATION
In a reversal of one of the most sweeping and controversial portions of its program integrity rules, the Education Department said Friday that it will no longer enforce a requirement that distance education programs obtain permission to operate in every state in which they enroll at least one student.
The change was announced quietly — on the third page of a five-page attachment to a "Dear Colleague" letter that the Education Department sent to institutions Friday — but will likely be cheered by many in higher education. Colleges have fought the state authorization rule both in Congress and in the courts since it was first put forward in October 2010, arguing that archaic authorization rules create too much red tape and financial burden for online programs.
In February of 2012, President Brodhead sent a letter to Rep. Virginia Foxx, thanking her for legislation she introduced to repeal state authorization regulations.
Backing Off on State Authorization (InsideHigherEd)
Brodhead Letter to Rep. Foxx on State Authorization (Duke.edu)
MANY COLLEGES AND UNIVERSITIES RAMPING UP PROGRAMS FOR MILITARY AND VETERAN STUDENTS
A survey of 690 higher education institutions finds that responding colleges and universities have increased services and programs for veteran and military students over the past three years.
Released last week, From Soldier to Student II: Assessing Campus Programs for Veterans and Service Members updates a 2009 study which provided the first national snapshot of the programs and services colleges and universities had in place to serve veterans and military personnel following passage of the Post-9/11 GI Bill in 2008.
While survey results indicated an increase in programs and services specifically designed for military service members and veterans, the survey also found opportunities for continued improvement.
Many Colleges and Universities Ramping Up Programs for Military and Veteran Students (ACEnet.edu)