- Sequestration Rhetoric Heating Up; President's State of the Union Address Next Week
- HHS Releases Rules on Contraceptive Coverage for Religious Institutions
- Call for Nominations: ACE Commissions on Leadership and Inclusion
- IN BRIEF: Cantor on Higher Education; ACE Hosts International Education Roundtable; Rehema Ellis to Speak at ACE's Annual Meeting; ACE Announces New Association of Chief Academic Officers
The upcoming budget sequester continued to dominate the discussion in Washington this week—plans to temporarily forestall it, the impact if it happens and whose fault it will be if the deadline is not met and the economy crashes.
President Obama Tuesday called on Congress to pass a package of limited spending cuts and tax increases to head off the major across-the-board reductions to domestic and military spending set to begin on March 1. However, the revenue side of the equation was immediately dismissed by Republicans. Senate Democrats followed up on Wednesday by announcing they were closing in on completing legislation along the president's outline, hoping the reality of federal furloughs, layoffs and spending cuts would spur action by Republicans. (Click here to see our paper on how sequestration would impact higher education.) So far, there has been no GOP response.
The president will have the rhetorical upper hand next week, with his State of the Union address scheduled for Tuesday. We expect sequestration and other fiscal issues to be front and center, but we also anticipate that higher education will be addressed in some way, as it was in 2012 and every other year during the first Obama administration. I will have a full report next week.
In positive budget news, a report released Wednesday by the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) indicates the Pell Grant Program's financial future isn't quite as dire as feared. Previous estimates predicted a $5.7 billion shortfall for 2014, but the CBO now projects that Pell will be fully funded at its maximum award level ($5,730) for fiscal year 2014 and will be in much better financial shape than previously expected in fiscal year 2015, as well. For additional information, see Inside Higher Ed.
The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Feb. 1 issued another regulation to implement the Affordable Care Act (ACA) that impacts colleges and universities, pertaining to contraceptive coverage at religious institutions, including religiously affiliated colleges.
The ACA, President Obama's signature health care law signed in 2010, requires all employers to provide contraception without co-payment. Under the proposed rule, "group health plans of 'religious employers' would be exempted from having to provide contraceptive coverage, if they have religious objections to contraception," according to HHS. Plan participants would instead "receive contraceptive coverage through separate individual health insurance policies, without cost sharing or additional premiums."
This regulation comes on the heels of HHS's draft rule for self-funded health insurance plans issued last week.
For details and information on submitting comments, see the Federal Register.
ACE is now accepting nominations from interested presidents and chancellors for appointments to the Commission on Leadership and the Commission on Inclusion.
The commissions advise ACE on various mission-related issues and guide the Council in initiating new programs and policies. 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 are due by Feb. 22 and can be submitted to Hadja Bangura via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or fax to (202) 833-5696.
In a policy address Tuesday at the American Enterprise Institute, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) outlined the Republican Party's proposals on a range of domestic policy issues, including higher education. In a nod toward immigration reform, Cantor backed the principles underlying the DREAM Act and expressed support for easing visa rules for foreign nationals who earn advanced degrees in STEM fields at U.S. universities. He also called for more information on college graduates' salaries by major (which echoes the Obama administration's interest in gainful employment), overhauling federal student aid and cutting funding for social science research.
Representatives of 10 embassies and the World Bank visited ACE on Wednesday for the inaugural meeting of the International Education Roundtable, an effort to build an ongoing dialogue between American higher education and the Washington diplomatic community. I was joined by staff of our Center for Internationalization and Global Engagement in facilitating the discussion, in which members of the roundtable spoke about their countries' priorities for higher education, partnerships in the United States, challenges and how ACE could help them achieve their long-term goals. We will convene additional International Roundtables in the coming months.
I'm pleased to announce that NBC News Chief Education Correspondent Rehema Ellis will speak at the closing plenary at ACE's 95th Annual Meeting, March 2-5, 2013, in Washington, DC. Ms. Ellis's reports appear on the NBC Nightly News with Brian Williams, Today and MSNBC. Her speech will be a highlight of the closing Tuesday plenary lunch session, where the 2013 recipient of the Dr. Reginald Wilson Diversity Leadership Award will also be honored.
Also at the Annual Meeting, the first national professional organization representing chief academic officers (CAOs) is set to convene. The Association of Chief Academic Officers will represent individuals such as provosts and vice presidents for academic affairs and provide a forum for discussing important academic affairs issues. Interested CAOs are welcome to attend the initial organizational session, at which their institutions will have the opportunity to become charter members. The session is scheduled for 8 a.m., March 3, during the exclusive pre-conference programming for CAOs, with a 7:30 a.m. breakfast preceding the meeting.
Molly Corbett Broad
President of ACE