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President to President
Molly Corbett Broad's weekly email newsletter to higher education leaders.

Regulation Task Force Needs Your Input

April 7-11, 2014 ~ Vol. 15, No. 13

  • Regulation Task Force Needs Your Input
  • House Approves Ryan Budget
  • Regional Accreditors Take Steps to Improve Public Understanding of Commission Actions
  • ACE, Higher Education Associations Comment on Camp Tax Reform Plan
  • ACE Brief Stresses Importance of Internships to College Students
  • IN BRIEF: Duncan Testifies Before House Appropriations Subcommittee; Change and Innovation Lab Meets at ACE

Before I get to this week’s news, I want to remind you that the Task Force on Government Regulation of Higher Education is still looking for your ideas to streamline federal rules and regulations. Suggestions are due by April 30. 

The task force—formed last fall​ by a bipartisan group of senators, including Lamar Alexander (R-TN), Barbara Mikulski (D-MD), Michael Bennet (D-CO) and Richard Burr (R-NC)—is charged with identifying specific federal regulations that are both burdensome to colleges and universities and provide little benefit to the government and the public. The group, which first met in February at ACE’s offices in Washington, will continue to work throughout 2014, with the goal of producing a set of recommendations for action next year. 

This memo ​from University System of Maryland Chancellor Brit Kirwan and fellow co-chair Nicholas Zeppos, chancellor of Vanderbilt University (TN), gives specific details on the kinds of input the task force is seeking. Submit your suggestions to regulations@acenet.edu. 

The House voted yesterday​ 219-205 mostly along party lines to approve the FY 2015 GOP budget plan​ authored by House Budget Committee Chair Paul Ryan (R-WI), which would freeze the maximum Pell Grant award for 10 years and roll back other recent expansions of that program, along with other provisions targeted at higher education.

The bill stands little chance of passing the Democratic-controlled Senate, where leaders have said they don’t plan to draft a budget this year because spending levels were already set by the bipartisan deal reached in December. But it is worth being alert to the priorities laid out in the plan as appropriators begin negotiating the spending bills for FY 2015, which begins Oct. 1. 

Other than freezing the maximum Pell Grant award at its current level ($5,730) for 10 years, the budget would impose an unspecified income cap on recipients, as well as place Pell Grants off limits to students who attend college less than half time. All Pell Grant funding would be placed in the discretionary spending category, meaning all funding each year would be at the discretion of lawmakers. The plan also calls for changes to federal student loans and research spending and eliminates all funding for the National Endowment for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Humanities. 

National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities President David Warren and I, as co-chairs of the Student Aid Alliance, sent a letter​ Monday to all members of the House urging them to vote against the FY 2015 budget resolution when it came to a floor vote because the measure would “make devastating cuts to college aid and access programs.” As we wrote, the proposed cuts in the Pell Grant Program, student loan subsidies, and campus-based aid programs are simply not sustainable if America aims to continue its leadership role in the world economy. 

Good news from the Council of Regional Accrediting Commissions (C-RAC) on Wednesday—the coalition announced plans​ to implement a common framework and understanding of terms for key actions regarding accredited institutions. 

Beginning this year, the terms “Warning,” “Probation,” “Show Cause,” “Withdrawal of Accreditation,” “Denial of Accreditation” and “Appeal” will be identical across regions, according to C-RAC’s plans. This is an important step in promoting better public understanding of accreditation. It also reflects one of the key recommendations from Assuring Academic Quality in the 21st Century: Self-Regulation in a New Era​, a report released by ACE’s National Task Force on Institutional Accreditation in 2012. 

ACE and 10 other higher education associations sent comments last Friday​ to Rep. Dave Camp (R-MI), chair of the House Ways and Means Committee, on his recently released comprehensive tax reform plan​. The proposal includes a range of changes to portions of the tax code that are designed to help students and families pay for college and assist individuals in repaying their student loan debt. 

While we are pleased that the Camp proposal seeks to create a simpler, consolidated higher education tax credit and makes welcome changes to the American Opportunity Tax Credit, we believe that the plan ultimately would undermine the existing framework of higher education tax incentives. In short, we are concerned that the bill takes away benefits from one set of students—both low- and middle-income, as well as graduate level—to pay for aid to a smaller set of low-income students. (Click here​ for a more detailed overview.) 

The chances of passage for the Camp plan or any other comprehensive tax reform bill this year are slim. However, both Camp’s proposal and the GOP budget the House approved yesterday, which calls for comprehensive tax reform and references Camp’s plan, are statements of House Republican fiscal priorities for the coming year.

While the House will soon be losing the author of this particular plan—Camp announced March 31 that he will retire at the end of this year—many Republican members of Congress have long advocated for tax reform, so we may see elements of it in the future. 

ACE and five other higher education associations filed an amicus brief​ this week with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit in the high-profile case Glatt v. Fox Searchlight Pictures, Inc., which deals with the legality of unpaid internships.

The case, on appeal ​from the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, challenges the district court’s ruling​ that two unpaid interns working on the Fox Searchlight Pictures, Inc., film Black Swan were employees entitled to wages. The ruling also certified a class action of unpaid interns who worked for various divisions of Searchlight’s parent corporation, Fox Entertainment Group. 

Our brief does not support either party but instead stresses the increasingly vital role internships and cooperative education play in postsecondary education. We urged deference to colleges and universities when determining whether internships taken for college credit are of primary benefit to the interns’ education. 

The appeal will be heard in tandem with Wang v. Hearst Corp., another internship case​ that reached the opposite conclusion on similar facts. 

IN BRIEF

Education Secretary Arne Duncan testified Tuesday before the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies. He discussed the Obama administration’s spending priorities for FY 2015. Click here​ for more information and to view an archived webcast. 

It was a pleasure to host at ACE’s offices this week the first meeting of the Change and Innovation Lab (CIL)​, a groundbreaking effort to help colleges and universities implement scalable and sustainable initiatives to significantly increase the number of first-generation and nontraditional students who gain a college degree. Presidents and senior leaders from nine institutions will work during the 18-month CIL project, which is supported by Lumina Foundation, to implement concrete steps on their campuses and identify how some of these practices can be applied broadly at colleges and universities across the country. Participating institutions are: Brandman University (CA); Cambridge College (MA); Edinboro University (PA); Georgia Gwinnett College; Graceland University (MO); Hiram College (OH); Lehman College (NY); Mercy College (NY); and Winthrop University (SC). 

Molly Corbett Broad
President of ACE​