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President to President

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

President to President, June 11-15, 2012

Vol. 13, No. 20

  • ​Homeland Security to Enact Some DREAM Act Provisions
  • Senate Appropriations Committee Approves FY13 Education Spending Bill
  • Higher Education Groups Protest Cutting Political Science Research Funding
  • Education Department Releases Second Round of College Cost Lists
  • Higher Education Task Force Releases Background Material on Teacher Preparation Issues
  • White House Meeting on Innovation in Industry-Higher Education Relationships
  • IN BRIEF: White House Interfaith/Community Service Challenge Enters Second Year

Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano this morning issued a memo announcing that some provisions of the DREAM Act will be put into place. Although we are still learning more about the specifics, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) will halt deportations of certain people under 30 who were illegally brought into the country as children. Early reports indicate the policy will affect 800,000 people.

ACE has long supported congressional efforts to pass the DREAM Act, the 10-year-old bill designed to give undocumented young people brought to the United States as children a path to higher education and citizenship. While this directive does not create a path to citizenship for those it seeks to protect from deportation, it is a good first step and buys time for these individuals until Congress can reach agreement on legislation to address the broader aspects of citizenship status.

After we review the DHS policy more closely, we will share its particular impact on higher education.

The Senate Appropriations Committee yesterday passed by a straight party-line vote of 16-14 a $68.5 billion FY 2013 budget for the Education Department (ED), including a slight hike to the maximum Pell Grant.

The maximum Pell Grant would increase by $85 to $5,635 for academic year 2013-14 under the agreement drafted and approved by the Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education Tuesday. The bill would also restore Pell eligibility for 'Ability-to-Benefit' students, who do not hold a high school credential. This eligibility was eliminated in last year's appropriations process.

Most other student financial aid programs, such as Supplemental Education Opportunity Grants and Federal Work-Study, would be level-funded. However, the report accompanying the bill expresses conceptual support for the Department of Education's proposal to shift funds from "higher-priced and well-endowed" colleges and universities to "lower-priced" institutions. It suggests that the formula change to accomplish this needs to be worked out by Congress, presumably putting this controversial item on the agenda for the upcoming Higher Education Act reauthorization.

The bill also allocates $40 million for the president's proposed First in the World initiative, a competitive grant program at the Fund for the Improvement of Postsecondary Education. This program will encourage institutions to experiment with ways to restrain tuition growth. In addition, the measure provides $44.8 million for the new Advanced Research Projects Agency for Education, or ARPA-ED, which will fund projects run by industry, universities or other innovative organizations based on their potential to transform teaching and learning. Also included is increased funding for the National Institutes of Health (up $100 million to $30.7 billion). However, the proposal does not include the $1 billion President Obama requested for his proposed higher education "Race to the Top" initiative.

A number of policy provisions also were included in the bill, including two from the president's FY 2013 budget request. One eliminates eligibility for subsidized Stafford loans for new borrowers enrolled beyond 150 percent of their program's length, and another reduces the subsidy paid by the government to guaranty agencies for rehabilitating defaulted loans.

The legislation also includes two provisions that appear to target for-profit colleges but would apply to all institutions. One bans institutions from using federal dollars on "marketing, recruitment and advertising," while the other eliminates the use of room and board in the cost of attendance calculation for Pell Grant eligibility for students taking 100 percent of their courses by distance education.

It is not at all clear what happens next. Given the party line vote on the measure, there will be little or no Republican support for floor consideration, making it unlikely that the bill will progress any further before the election.

In other appropriations news, we sent a letter to the Senate this week, urging members to support full funding for the National Science Foundation and oppose a provision in the House version of the FY 2013 spending bill for the departments of Commerce, Justice, Science (CJS) and related agencies that bans funding for political science research.

As you might remember, the House on May 10 voted 247-163 to approve its FY 2013 CJS spending bill (H.R. 5326), which included an amendment offered by Rep. Jeff Flake (R-AZ) for the political science funding ban. The amendment passed by a vote of 218-208, despite strong opposition from the research community.

We are waiting for the full Senate to vote on its version of the bill (S. 2323), and then a conference committee must meet to resolve differences between the two, so there is time to contact your senators and make your wishes known on this issue.

The Department of Education released its second annual college cost lists this week, highlighting by sector institutions with the highest tuition and fees, highest net price and highest rates of tuition and net price increases.

The lists, which are mandated by the 2008 Higher Education Opportunity Act, also name the colleges with the lowest tuition and fees and lowest net price.

According to the data, the average sticker price at four-year public colleges rose 15 percent over last year, while some states saw increases of up to 40 percent. We were pleased the department this year is acknowledging the relationship between state funding cuts and increases in tuition rates at public institutions: Secretary of Education Arne Duncan said in a conference call with reporters Tuesday that "state budget cuts were the most important factor in tuition increases in recent years."

Institutions with the highest rates of tuition and net price increases over a three-year period will be required to submit special reports to the secretary of education.

In anticipation of the Department of Education (ED) issuing controversial draft regulations on teacher preparation later this summer that would use standardized test scores of elementary and secondary students to rank colleges and universities, a task force of higher education associations has developed a package of materials for use by the community.

Much attention was focused this spring on ED's most recent round of negotiated rulemaking that would have required states to put in place value-added metrics tying student performance on standardized testing to teacher preparation without considering other factors, like poverty, school district resources or parental involvement. These measurements would result in the rating of postsecondary programs and potentially the loss of Title IV funds for future students enrolled in those programs with lower ratings.

After much back and forth, ED terminated the talks and ruled out the possibility of further discussions. The department will now go it alone, drafting regulations that will be published in the Federal Register and open to public comment. While the exact timing is unclear, the regulations must be finalized by Nov. 1.

We are gravely concerned about the implementation of value-added metrics, which would open the door to creating a No Child Left Behind for higher education in which program quality would be linked to the receipt of Title IV aid. There is no evidence to suggest that the department's approach meets the basic psychometric standards of reliability and validity. Under the leadership of the American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education, a group of higher education associations, including ACE, has formed the Higher Education Task Force on Teacher Preparation to address this and other concerns. The task force has prepared materials outlining the community's issues with the department's proposals, offering the community's principles for evaluating teacher preparation programs, and providing a set of myths and facts on teacher preparation.

I would encourage you to use the materials in your discussions about teacher preparation reform in the coming weeks if you are interested in submitting comments on the draft regulations.

Business-Higher Education Forum (BHEF) members met with key administration officials Tuesday at the White House, where they presented BHEF's National Undergraduate STEM Partnership Strategy and Regional Workforce Projects.

Led by BHEF Chair Wes Bush of Northrop Grumman and immediate past Chair Brit Kirwan, chancellor of the University System of Maryland, BHEF presented an open letter to the president to Dr. John Holdren, assistant to the president for science and technology, director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, and co-chair of the President's Council of Advisors on Science and Technology. ACE was among the signatories, which announced the formation of a National Undergraduate STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) Partnership of 10 industry and higher education associations, professional societies and government agencies, to improve undergraduate success in STEM fields, particularly in the first two years of college.

IN BRIEF

You received this week an invitation to participate in year two of President Obama's Interfaith and Community Service Campus Challenge. This initiative brings together diverse religious groups on campus for interfaith cooperation and community service programs. On July 9-10, 2012, the White House will host a gathering to celebrate the accomplishments of the challenge, share information about organizing interfaith/community service work at your institution, and to engage presidents in a conversation about this important work. More information on the challenge and the event will be shared during a June 18 webinar—click here to learn more.

Molly Corbett Broad
President of ACE