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

Budget Committee Deadline Nears

Dec. 2-6, 2013 ~ Vol. 14, No. 39

  • Budget Committee Deadline Is Dec. 13; Progress Reportedly Being Made
  • House Subcommittee Holds Hearing on Pell Grants
  • House Approves Innovation Act
  • GED Testing Service Launches MyGED
  • IN BRIEF: Settlement on NYU Graduate Student Unions; Final Gainful Employment Rulemaking Session Dec. 13; Annual Meeting Early Registration Ends Dec. 13; First Professional Organization for CAOs Welcomes New Members

As we approach the end of this congressional session, the House-Senate Budget Conference Committee working on a plan for FY 2014 spending reportedly is close to a draft proposal. The committee has until next Friday, Dec. 13, to return a plan to both chambers, an outcome of the October deal to reopen the federal government.

The conference committee, led by Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA) and Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI), is nearing a limited deal that would raise fiscal 2014 spending to about $1 trillion, divided evenly between defense and nondefense accounts, according to Congressional Quarterly. Draft legislation could be up for a vote next week. However, it may have trouble winning final approval in a divided Congress.

There are no immediate consequences if the budget conference misses its Dec. 13 deadline—the country won’t default on its debt and the federal government won’t shut down. The real deadline is Jan. 15, when government funding again expires.

A House subcommittee Tuesday heard from several witnesses on ways to reform the Pell Grant Program as Congress prepares to reauthorize the Higher Education Act, the sweeping law governing federal financial aid programs.

Members of the House Higher Education and Workforce Training Subcommittee and the four panelists all agreed the program should be adjusted to curtail costs and ensure that students who need financial assistance the most get it, but differed on how to accomplish those goals. The discussion touched on a number of areas, from providing year-round Pell Grants to whether student aid contributes to escalating college costs. A good part of the hearing focused on how to make certain that students who receive grants are attending classes.

A webcast of the hearing is available here.

The House yesterday voted 325-91 to approve a bill designed to make it easier to fight back against patent trolls, who generally don't produce any products of their own and instead use patents to sue other companies.

While we strongly support the goal of the Innovation Act (H.R. 3309) to reduce abusive patent litigation and the corrosive impact it has on the capacity of our patent system to foster innovation and economic competitiveness, the overly broad scope of the bill as written raises the specter of unintended problems and raises particular concerns for universities. (Read the full higher education association community statement on the legislation.)

The bill’s sponsor, Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-VA) wrote a letter this week in reaction to several of our points, to which the Association of American Universities, which leads the community efforts on patent issues, responded in this memo. Our concerns are shared by a wide range of organizations, companies, small business and independent inventors who collectively make extremely valuable contributions to the nation’s economy through the U.S. patent system.

A companion bill is currently in the works in the Senate, which will hold a Judiciary Committee hearing on the measure Dec. 17.

This week marked an important milestone in ACE’s work to expand the postsecondary pipeline: Students across the country can now access MyGED® at GED.com to register for the new 2014 GED test, which will be released Jan. 2.

The site also provides cutting-edge resources to help adults better prepare for the new test, which is aligned with state and national college and career readiness standards. It also helps adults identify career pathways, investigate potential jobs, and be better prepared for college and career training programs.

As you may recall, our goal when we formed a joint venture in March 2011 with Pearson to create the new GED Testing Service was to take a fresh approach to recapturing the incredible waste of human talent represented by the millions of Americans who lack a high school diploma. Launching the new MyGED online portal is an important step in our effort to transform the GED from just a high school equivalency test to a comprehensive start-to-finish program.

IN BRIEF

New York University (NYU) announced before Thanksgiving that it had reached an agreement with the graduate assistants’ union, an arm of the United Auto Workers (UAW), to recognize and bargain with the UAW if a majority of graduate assistants vote in favor of having a union. NYU and UAW agreed to mutually withdraw the case currently before the National Labor Relations Board (see ACE’s brief in support of NYU here). The graduate assistants, excluding research assistants in the hard sciences, will vote Dec. 10 and 11 on unionizing.

The Education Department has scheduled for Dec. 13 its third session of negotiated rulemaking on the proposed gainful employment rule. It will be negotiators’ last attempt to reach consensus on a new regulation designed to ensure that students who enroll in some higher education programs—especially those at for-profit schools—will earn enough money to repay their student loans. For more on last month’s sessions, see Inside Higher Ed.

The early bird registration deadline is Dec. 13 for ACE’s 96th Annual Meeting: Seizing Opportunity, scheduled for March 8-11, 2014, in San Diego. Confirmed speakers include Mary Sue Coleman, president of the University of Michigan, who will deliver the Robert H. Atwell lecture at the opening plenary session Sunday, March 9; and Paula Kerger, president and CEO of PBS, who will give the keynote address at the ACE Women's Leadership Dinner Saturday, March 8. Click here to register.

You may want to share the news with your chief academic officer (CAO) that the first national professional organization representing CAOs has launched its website and is welcoming charter members. Eligible institutions are encouraged to join the Association of Chief Academic Officers (ACAO) as charter members. Among the benefits: charter institutions will be listed permanently on the ACAO website and their CAOs will be recognized as leaders in the formation of the organization (for more information, click here.) The ACAO held its initial organizational meeting during ACE’s 2013 Annual Meeting in Washington, DC. At ACE’s 96th Annual Meeting in San Diego, the ACAO business session and other sessions for CAOs are scheduled for Sunday, March 9.

Molly Corbett Broad
President of ACE