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

Senate Passes Budget Deal

Dec. 16-20, 2013 ~ Vol. 14., No. 41

  • Senate Passes Budget Deal
  • Gainful Employment Rulemaking Panel Fails to Reach Consensus
  • House GOP, Education Department Seeking Separate Input on Health Care Law, College Ratings System
  • NAPAHE Members Can Register Now for ACE Annual Meeting

Following House passage Dec. 12, the Senate Wednesday voted 64-36 to approve the bipartisan deal ​setting overall funding levels for the federal government through fiscal year (FY) 2015 and partially replacing sequestration cuts with other savings. With President Obama expected to sign the bill, the 12 appropriations subcommittees have until Jan. 15 to decide on specific spending levels for individual agencies and programs for the current fiscal year. 

We sent a letter on behalf of 18 other higher education associations to the Senate Tuesday supporting the bill as providing a measure of federal funding stability and a positive step toward reversing some of the detrimental sequestration cuts.

As you will recall, House and Senate budget negotiators forged the agreement ahead of a Dec. 13 deadline to return a plan to Congress, an outcome of the October deal to reopen the federal government.

The agreement—known as the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2013—sets "top-line" spending and revenue figures for the next two fiscal years and partially replaces the sequester (the across-the-board spending cuts triggered earlier this year following prior failures to reach a budget agreement) with other cuts and non-tax revenues (such as higher retirement benefit contributions for some federal employees and an increase in airline ticket fees). 

On the higher education front, the deal is expected to go some distance to alleviate cuts to campus-based financial aid programs and federal research agencies such as the National Institutes of Health and National Science Foundation. This funding was slated for a second round of mandated sequestration reductions in 2014, but it will now be up to the appropriations subcommittees to set new allocations when lawmakers return in January. The higher budget caps for both years should allow for the reversal of some damaging cuts, and should, at minimum, prevent any further cuts for the next two years. (Click here to read my Huffington Post piece on research funding and our country's innovation deficit, and here​ to read our paper from earlier this year on sequestration's impact on higher education.)

In an anticipated development, the negotiated rulemaking panel working on gainful employment has failed to reach a consensus, leaving it up to the Education Department (ED) to move forward next year with its favored approach. These rules are an effort to ensure students who enroll in some higher education programs will earn enough money to repay their student loans. 

The discussions of the department's proposals had been contentious. Of the suggested provisions put forward for consideration during the negotiations, we are disappointed that ED rejected two that were of particular interest: “safe harbors” from the rules for 1) low-cost institutions with very small numbers of borrowers and 2) gainful employment programs provided by institutions with extremely low student-loan default rates.

The department now can choose to accept or ignore guidance from the committee and take whatever time it deems necessary to develop its final version. Once that occurs, the proposed rule will be released for a public comment period (which typically lasts 30 to 90 days). The timeline for these steps is unknown. For more on this, see The Chronicle of Higher Education and Inside Higher Ed. We will keep you posted as the regulations process moves forward in 2014.

You may be interested in separate requests for information from a group of Republican House members and the Obama administration. 

Republican leaders on the House Education and the Workforce Committee are looking for feedback about the impact of the new health care law on colleges and universities, and the Education Department is seeking input on what measures to use in President Obama’s proposed college ratings system.

For more information, see this letter from the committee’s GOP leaders and this Federal Register notice​ published by the Education Department.

Members of the National Association of Presidential Assistants in Higher Education (NAPAHE) can register now for NAPAHE’s 27th Annual Conference and Business Meeting, slated for March 7-9, 2014, through the website for ACE's 96th Annual Meeting: Seizing Opportunity​, March 8-11, 2014, in San Diego. 

The NAPAHE meeting will be held at the same location as the ACE Annual Meeting. NAPAHE participants who attend the ACE Annual Meeting receive a 20 percent discount on the ACE registration fee. 

The 2014 National Association of Diversity Officers in Higher Education (NADOHE) meeting and the ACE Women’s Network State Coordinators Conference also will be held at the same location as the ACE Annual Meeting. Attendees of those meetings are also eligible for a 20 percent discount on the ACE registration fee.

To register for the ACE Annual Meeting, click here.

This will be the last edition of President to President for the year. I wish you a happy holiday season and peaceful and joyous New Year. President to President will return in 2014.

Molly Corbett Broad
President of ACE