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

Spending Bill, Taxes, Terrorism Risk Insurance on Congress's Final Agenda

Dec. 8-12, 2014 ~ Vol. 15, No. 37

  • Spending Bill, Taxes, Terrorism Risk Insurance on Congress’s Final Agenda; All Include Major Provisions for Colleges
  • ACTION REQUIRED: ACE Survey on Race-conscious Admissions Practices
  • IN BRIEF: ACE Releases White Paper on Endowments; Warrior-Scholar Project Invites Veterans to Apply for 2015 Academic Boot Camps

The 113th Congress is working to wrap up its final session before adjourning, with several items of interest to higher education still on the agenda. House and Senate leaders have agreed on a spending bill that will fund most of the federal government for the remainder of FY 2015. The House voted 219-206 to pass the measure last night, and the Senate is expected to follow suit by Saturday. Education funding would remain mostly flat under the measure, and I have noted below some of the items of greatest interest to campuses.

The bill includes full-year appropriations for 11 of the 12 appropriations bills and a continuing resolution (CR) through February for the Department of Homeland Security, which is intended to allow next year's Republican-led Congress to address President Obama's executive order on immigration.

The bill does not include Sen. Tom Harkin's (D-IA) proposal to reallocate $2 billion of the Pell Grant surplus to other programs that we discussed last week. It does move $300 million from the program, with the bulk of that funding going toward student loan servicing. But the maximum Pell Grant award will still rise by $100 to $5,830 in the next academic year because of an automatic mandatory increase in funding. The bill would also partially restore federal financial aid eligibility for 'Ability-to-Benefit' students, extending eligibility to those in certified career pathways programs who do not hold a high school credential. This provision is of particular importance to community colleges.

Among the other provisions:

  • Federal Work-Study will increase by $15 million and TRIO programs by $1.5 million. GEAR-UP and Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grants are level-funded.
  • The Fund for the Improvement of Postsecondary Education (FIPSE) funding is cut by $11.6 million.
  • Funding for President Obama’s First in the World program drops from $75 million to $60 million.
  • The Veterans Centers of Excellence program—created in the last Higher Education Act (HEA) but never funded—is funded at $5 million.
  • The National Technical Assistance Center to promote best practices for students with disabilities, also created in the last HEA and never funded, will receive $2.5 million.
  • The Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights funding will increase by $1.9 million to $100 million. The bill specifically notes the increase is intended to continue OCR’s work on campus sexual assault.
  • National Institutes of Health is funded at $30.1 billion, an increase of $150 million.
  • National Science Foundation will receive $7.3 billion, an increase of $172 million.
  • The National Endowment for the Humanities will remain flat at $147 million.

Two more bills important to higher education still await final action before the 113th Congress adjourns: a measure on expiring tax credits, and reauthorization of the Terrorism Risk Insurance Act (TRIA).

The House approved an extension of $45 billion in tax incentives (H.R. 5771) Dec. 3, including several major higher education provisions: the above-the-line deduction for qualified tuition and related expenses, the IRA Charitable Rollover and the research and development tax credit. Under the House proposal, taxpayers would be able to claim these long-standing tax benefits on their 2014 tax returns. But they would expire again Dec. 31, 2015, leaving the matter for the new Congress to address. We expect the Senate to act on the House tax extenders bill before adjourning.

Congress also needs to reauthorize TRIA, which expires on Dec. 31. Originally enacted in 2002, TRIA created a public-private risk sharing mechanism which has helped ensure that colleges and universities can purchase sufficient affordable insurance coverage to protect against losses resulting from a terrorist attack. Along with the business community, we have long been on record as supporting the renewal of this law (see our most recent letter here).

The House voted 417-7 Wednesday to approve an extension of TRIA (S. 2244), sending the bill back to the Senate, which passed a different version on July 1. Senate Democrats back the basic reauthorization of TRIA but object to a provision added by the House involving the Dodd-Frank financial regulatory overhaul. There is a lot of support for TRIA in the Senate, but a lack of time coupled with the possibility that a single senator might block a final vote by threatening a filibuster could prevent the bill from passing before the Senate adjourns.

ACE’s Center for Policy Research and Strategy is leading a groundbreaking survey study to examine how legal challenges to race-conscious admissions have changed contemporary admissions practices, and we need your help.

The study’s aim is to provide a unique avenue for admissions and enrollment management leaders to share experiences, current practices and ongoing challenges as your institution works to sustain access and campus diversity while facing evolving legal parameters. Answers will be kept strictly confidential; only aggregate information will be reported, and no specific link to your or any other institution will be made public.

A link to the survey has already been sent via email to your admissions or enrollment management leader. They may request a new survey link or email any questions to admissionssurvey@acenet.edu. Please encourage your staff to complete the survey to ensure we capture a diverse range of perspectives. Time is of the essence; the survey closes at the end of the year.

IN BRIEF

A new ACE publication, Understanding College and University Endowments, outlines the importance of these funds in helping institutions support their educational missions and answers frequently asked questions about their purpose and use. The paper answers questions such as how an endowment is created, how institutions balance present and future needs in managing their endowments and how the funds generated are used.

The Warrior-Scholar Project (WSP) is now accepting applications for more than 150 spots in its 2015 academic boot camps, which help facilitate enlisted veterans' transitions from the military to college. The academic boot camps, scheduled for 11 major U.S. universities in 2015, are open to enlisted veterans and transitioning current service members who plan to enroll in or transfer into a four-year undergraduate program. WSP donors cover all program costs for accepted students, except transportation.

I wish you a happy holiday season and peaceful and joyous New Year. President to President will return in 2015.

Molly Corbett Broad
President of ACE