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

President to President: Obama Calls for Student Aid Reform in State of the Union Address; White House Unveils College Scorecard

Vol. 14, No. 6

  • ​President Obama Calls for Student Aid Reform in State of the Union Address; White House Unveils College Scorecard
  • President, Sec. Duncan Ask Congress to Save Education Funding From the Sequester; Democrats Release Bill to Delay It 10 Months
  • University of New Hampshire President Huddleston Represents ACE at House Charitable Giving Hearing
  • IN BRIEF: House Hearing on GI Bill Processing Delays; Webinar on Military and Veterans Financial Aid Compliance; Encourage Your Assistant to Register for NAPAHE Meeting; ACE Commissions Nominations Due Feb. 22

Those of you who watched President Obama's State of the Union address Tuesday night heard several higher education-related themes: the connection of research funding to economic development and job creation, immigration reform and the importance of college "affordability and value" to students and families.

The president did not give new details or propose any new programs in most of these areas. He repeated his suggestion from last year's State of the Union speech that campus-based aid be withheld from institutions that don't control costs. However, while a number of meetings were held and speeches were given on the topic throughout 2012, no federal action was taken.

Based on a fact sheet that accompanied the address, the administration proposes accomplishing this by incorporating the notions of "affordability" and "value" into the existing system by modifications to accreditation. Either current accreditors would review affordability and value or the government would establish a "new, alternative system of accreditation that would provide pathways for higher education models and colleges to receive federal student aid based on performance and results," according to the White House fact sheet.

Needless to say, an hour-long speech is not enough to know exactly what the president has in mind and the supporting materials the administration released do not give much more information. Many of these issues will come to the fore when Congress works on reauthorizing the Higher Education Act, which is scheduled to expire at the end of 2013. However, it is not clear whether reauthorization will happen this year—the last effort, completed in 2008, took five years. Whatever timeframe Congress chooses, we will be working closely with staff members to help shape the bill and so will have a chance to weigh in on these proposals.

College Scorecard: On a related note, the president also announced during his address the release of the College Scorecard his administration has been working on for the past year. The scorecard, unveiled Wednesday, provides at-a-glance information about institutions, including costs, completion rates and average student-loan debt. While we applaud the effort to keep students and families informed, the scorecard at present doesn't provide much information that is not already available.

President Obama also asked Congress on Tuesday night to limit looming cuts in education and research, as part of a general appeal to forestall the upcoming budget sequestration. Education Secretary Arne Duncan echoed the president in his testimony yesterday to the Senate Appropriations Committee, describing the devastation sequestration would wreak on education.

We are two weeks from the March 1 deadline for sequestration to kick in if Congress does not act. In response to recent suggestions to limit defense cuts in favor of steeper ones to other programs, the president said that, "We won't grow the middle class simply by shifting the cost of health care or college onto families that are already struggling, or by forcing communities to lay off more teachers, cops, and firefighters," and reiterated his support for a "balanced approach to deficit reduction, with spending cuts and revenues."

Senate Democrats released a plan yesterday to avert sequestration, which would replace the 10-year sequester for the rest of 2013 with $120 billion in spending cuts and new tax revenue, split 50-50. Senate GOP Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) said on Tuesday he thinks sequestration will go into effect and joined other Republicans in calling for a replacement bill without any new taxes.

For details on how sequestration would impact higher education, see our brief paper on the issue.

I would like to thank University of New Hampshire President Mark Huddleston for testifying yesterday at a House Ways and Means Committee hearing on "Tax Reform and Charitable Contributions."

The hearing was called to examine the itemized deduction for charitable contributions as part of the overall effort on comprehensive tax reform. Mark noted that while we recognize the pressing need for major, long-term deficit reduction and reforming the tax code, we urge caution when considering potential changes to the current charitable deduction, which is vital to generating private support for colleges and universities. To read his testimony in full, click here.

The committee heard from an extraordinary number of witnesses—seven panels comprised of 42 speakers from some of the most high-profile and distinguished nonprofits in the country, which we believe is a true testament to the importance of this tax deduction to the fiscal health of the nonprofit community.

IN BRIEF

The House Veterans Affairs Subcommittee on Economic Opportunity heard testimony yesterday on "Increasing the Functionality of Post-9/11 GI Bill Claims Processing to Reduce Delays." Kim Hall, veterans program administrator at Humboldt State University (CA) and vice president of the National Association of Veterans Program Administrators, outlined the remaining concerns with processing these benefits. Those concerns include the need for regulations and policy guidance, upgraded IT and data entry systems, and the continued slow pace of some payment processing. She also very clearly expressed the need for school certifying officials to have access to real-time information about benefit eligibility. To read her testimony and that of other panelists, see the Veterans Affairs web page.

The National Association of College and University Attorneys, in cooperation with ACE, has scheduled a webinar for Feb. 28 on "Participation in Federal Military and Veterans' Financial Aid Programs: Key Compliance Issues and Obligations." The event will look at compliance obligations for institutions enrolling students who receive Post-9/11 GI Bill benefits and the Department of Defense (DoD) Tuition Assistance benefits, particularly under the Principles of Excellence set forth in Executive Order 13607 and DoD's recent Memorandum of Understanding.

I hope you will consider encouraging your assistant to register for the National Association of Presidential Assistants in Higher Education's (NAPAHE) 26th Annual Conference, which will take place March 1-3, right before ACE's 95th Annual Meeting in Washington, DC. Attendees will have the chance to share solutions and best practices for meeting the day-to-day challenges of a presidential assistant. Sessions will cover issues such as critical incident planning, shared governance and the always-popular "What Keeps You Up at Night?" a topic sure to generate interesting conversations.

The deadline is Feb. 22 to nominate interested presidents and chancellors for appointments to ACE's Commission on Leadership and Commission on Inclusion. Commission members are selected based on many factors, including ACE's desire to represent the full range of our membership, involve member presidents who have not previously participated in ACE activities and appoint members with specialized knowledge or interests. Terms are three years. Click here to download the form to nominate either a colleague or yourself. Nominations can be submitted to Hadja Bangura via email at hbangura@acenet.edu or fax to 202-833-5696.

Molly Corbett Broad
President of ACE