DC Digest - September 20, 2012
In Today's Issue:
- Classes, Faculty and Alumni Fill Duke in Washington Office
- OMB Report Details Effects of Budget Sequestration
- House and Senate Introduce High-Skill Immigration Bills
- NRC Issues Report on Innovation
- The 2012 Election: What Academe Needs to Know
- AAU Proposes Next President's Agenda
- Sens. Wyden and Rubio: Students Need Better Information on Earnings and Other College Outcomes
- Congress to Pass Stopgap Spending Bill With No Major Riders for Higher Ed
CLASSES, FACULTY AND ALUMNI FILL DUKE IN WASHINGTON OFFICE
Since opening its doors in April of this year, Duke in Washington has hosted a stream of meetings and faculty visits, and the start of a new school year has brought a variety of social, scholarly and classroom events.
Classes, Faculty and Alumni Fill Duke in DC Office (Duke News)
OMB REPORT DETAILS EFFECTS OF BUDGET SEQUESTRATION
The Office of Management and Budget (OMB) issued a report on September 14 that provides new details on the devastating impact that the scheduled budget sequester would have on federal agencies and programs. Last year’s Budget Control Act imposed tight new spending caps for FY14-FY21. It also stipulated that if Congress and the Administration failed to enact a package reducing the federal deficit by an additional $1.2 trillion through FY21—which they did fail to do—across-the-board spending cuts would be imposed in FY13, beginning January 2, and the out-year spending caps would be further reduced.
These spending cuts, termed the sequester, amount to $109 billion in FY13, divided evenly between defense and nondefense activities, and a total of $1.2 trillion in spending and interest savings through FY21. In FY13, defense spending would be cut by $54.7 billion, domestic discretionary spending by $38 billion, Medicare by $11 billion, and other mandatory domestic spending programs by about $5 billion.
The OMB report shows the impact of the potential cuts down to the budget function. While the final terms of the sequester would not be set until implementation, the report assumes a 9.4-percent cut in non-exempt defense discretionary spending programs and an 8.2-percent cut in non-exempt domestic discretionary spending programs. (For defense, military personnel accounts are exempt from the FY13 sequester; exempt nondefense accounts include veterans’ benefits and medical care and Pell Grants.) For those mandatory spending programs affected, the cuts would be 10 percent for defense programs and 7.6 percent for nondefense programs. Although funding for Medicare providers would be cut by two percent, or about $11 billion, other entitlements such as Medicaid and Social Security would not be touched. The impact of the sequester on federal agencies and activities would be intensified by the fact that it would be implemented three months into the fiscal year.
In areas of special concern to higher education, the National Institutes of Health budget would be cut by $2.5 billion, research at the National Science Foundation (NSF) by $469 million, NASA science by $417 million, and the National Endowment for the Humanities by $12 million. While Pell Grants would be exempt from the sequester in FY13, most other financial aid programs would be cut and student loan origination fees would increase.
By bringing the impact of the potential sequester down to the agency function level—showing separate cuts in NSF research, education, and major equipment, for example—the OMB report has intensified the drumbeat of articles and statements urging Congress and the Administration to avoid the sequester in the short term and to reach a balanced, long-term budget deal. See below for a statement by AAU President Hunter Rawlings.
As discussed previously, the sequester was never intended to be implemented. It was designed to be so egregious that Congress and the Administration would be forced to reach a budget deal. But no proposed alternative has been acceptable to all sides. Congress must address the sequester, along with the scheduled year-end expiration of the Bush-era tax cuts, the payroll tax cut, and unemployment benefits during the post-election lame duck congressional session. Also, the debt limit is likely to be reached early next year and will need to be raised. As noted by the Washington Post, “The cumulative impact of all of these scheduled cuts and changes is what’s popularly known as the fiscal cliff. There’s already talk of passing a short-term stopgap budget plan during the lame-duck session to buy legislators more time to come up with a grand bargain.”
As reported in the July 19 DC Digest, more than 150 college presidents, including President Brodhead, sent a letter to President Obama and Congressional leaders urging them to prevent sequestration and achieve a balanced, long-term budget agreement to address the nation’s fiscal problems.
OMB Sequestration Report (pdf)
Statement by AAU President Hunter Rawlings (pdf)
HOUSE AND SENATE INTRODUCE HIGH-SKILL IMMIGRATION BILLS
Three bills have been introduced in Congress this month that would grant visas to international students who have earned advanced degrees at U.S. universities in the fields of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). Although one of those bills, the “STEM Jobs Act,” is scheduled to be considered in the House this afternoon, CQ.com reports that the two chambers’ bills are not likely “to offer much more than partisan talking points before lawmakers depart to campaign.”
The STEM Jobs Act (H.R. 6429), introduced Tuesday by House Judiciary Committee Chairman Lamar Smith (R-TX) and 48 cosponsors, would eliminate the Diversity Visa program and reallocate its 55,000 visas for green cards for advanced STEM degree graduates. The measure would allow proprietary higher education institutions to participate in the program; the list of eligible technical fields does NOT include the biological sciences. Among other provisions, the bill also would allow foreign students to receive student visas to attend college in the U.S. in STEM fields without having to prove their intention to return home after they complete their studies.
A second House bill, introduced on September 14 by Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-CA), is called the “Attracting the Best and Brightest Act of 2012” (H.R. 6412). The measure would create 50,000 STEM visas, but would not eliminate the Diversity Visa program. The increase in STEM visas would be in effect for just two years, in order to give Congress time to pass immigration reform legislation. The Lofgren measure would not allow proprietary institutions to participate in the program.
Senator Schumer (D-NY) on Tuesday introduced his own STEM immigration bill. The measure, “Benefits to Research and American Innovation through Nationality Statutes Act of 2012" (the BRAIN Act), shares many similarities with the Lofgren bill, including the allocation of 50,000 advanced STEM degree graduates a year for just two years, but also would allow individuals to renew their nonimmigrant visas in the U.S. rather than having to return to their home countries.
Smith Introduces the STEM Jobs Act (judiciary.house.gov)
Summary of Attracting the Best and the Brightest Act (Lofgren.house.gov)
Schumer, Coons Introduce Visa Reform Plan (Schumer.senate.gov)
NRC ISSUES REPORT ON INNOVATION
In another follow-up to its seminal 2005 report, “Rising above the Gathering Storm,” the National Research Council (NRC) has published a new report, “Rising to the Challenge: U.S. Innovation Policy for the Global Economy.” Where the first report urged the U.S. to increase its investments in research & development, education, and other parts of the innovation system, the new report argues that “far more vigorous attention be paid to capturing the outputs of innovation—the commercial products, the industries, and particularly high-quality jobs to restore full employment.”
This comprehensive report focuses on four core goals, listed on page 11 of the report:
1. Monitoring and learning from successes and failures in other countries’ innovation policies;
2. Reinforcing U.S. innovation leadership through policies, programs, and institutions that create the foundation for our knowledge-based growth and high-value employment, including measures to strengthen U.S. research universities and national laboratories, renew the national infrastructure, and revive the manufacturing base;
3. Capturing greater value from public investments in research by reinforcing public-private partnerships and expanding support for manufacturing; and
4. Cooperating more actively with other nations to advance innovations that address shared global challenges in energy, health, the environment, and security.
NRC Report on Innovation (nationalacademies.org)
THE 2012 ELECTION: WHAT ACADEME NEEDS TO KNOW
The 2012 general election will determine more than which candidates win federal and state offices. It will also determine who guides federal oversight of student aid, for-profit colleges, research, and more, with billions of taxpayer dollars in the balance. As the final weeks of the campaign unfold, this page will host highlights of The Chronicle's coverage of the general election as it relates to higher education.
The 2012 Election: What Academe Needs to Know (Chronicle of Higher Ed)
AAU PROPOSES NEXT PRESIDENT'S AGENDA
The Association of American Universities (AAU) on September 18 proposed for the next Administration a detailed agenda for strengthening the partnership between the federal government and the nation’s research universities as a means of fostering innovation, prosperity, and economic growth.
The paper also lists steps that universities need to take to strengthen the partnership and improve the ways they carry out their missions of education, research, and public service.
AAU will provide the policy paper, entitled “Partnering for a Prosperous and Secure Future: The Federal Government and Research Universities,” to both major Presidential campaigns.
For some of its key proposals, the paper relies on the recent National Research Council (NRC) report, “Research Universities and the Future of America: Ten Breakthrough Actions Vital to Our Nation’s Prosperity and Security.
AAU 2012 Campaign White Paper (pdf)
SENS. WYDEN AND RUBIO: STUDENTS NEED BETTER INFORMAITON ON EARNINGS AND OTHER COLLEGE OUTCOMES
Although several studies have documented the financial payoff of graduating from college, debate continues to swirl over whether higher education is a good investment. In those discussions, knowing what happens to the average college graduate is only so helpful. Yes, more students are taking on more debt, and the job market is weak. But also, not all college degrees are the same, and not all graduates fare equally well.
With that in mind, Sen. Ron Wyden, a Democrat of Oregon, and Sen. Marco Rubio, a Republican of Florida, introduced a bill this year that would create a state-based, individual-level data system to link information on college costs, graduation rates, and student debt with data on employment and earnings. Called the "Student Right to Know Before You Go Act" (S 2098), the bill would shift the data-reporting burden from colleges to states and provide prospective students and their families with real information on the outcomes of students in specific programs at particular colleges.
Students Need Better Information on Earnings and Other College Outcomes, Senators Say (Chronicle of HigherEd)
CONGRESS TO PASS STOPGAP SPENDING BILL WITH NO MAJOR RIDERS FOR HIGHER ED
The federal government won't shut down, at least not this month. The U.S. Senate is expected to pass legislation today to approve a continuing resolution, already endorsed by the House last week, that would extend current federal appropriations through March 27, 2013. The White House has said that President Obama will sign the bill.
The resolution would sustain the current annual budget of $1-trillion, with a 0.6-percent increase. The current appropriations were set to expire on September 30, the end of the 2012 fiscal year. Congress has yet to finish work on spending bills for 2013.
Congress to Pass Stopgap Spending Bill With No Major Riders for Higher Ed (Chronicle of Higher Ed)